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FAFEN points out irregularities in otherwise ‘orderly’ Gilgit Baltistan elections 2020

Officials count votes. — APP/Files

The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has released its preliminary report on the Gilgit Baltistan elections 2020 in which it said that  voting and counting processes were according to law but there were some irregularities. 

“Voting and counting processes at the polling stations [were] conducted mostly according to the law and prescribed rules, though the legally mandatory provision of Form 45 (the Result of the Count) to polling agents was reported to have not been fully ensured by the presiding officers,” said FAFEN in its report.

The report said that it was impressive how the Election Commission of Gilgit Baltistan (ECGB) had succeeded in stopping political parties from campaigning and canvassing for votes on election day.

However, FAFEN pointed out that not all polling stations were able to follow the rules in accordance with the prescribed regulations.

“Observers deployed by FAFEN reported an average of around three illegalities or irregularities per polling station. These included breach of the secrecy of the vote, stamping of ballots by others on behalf of voters, and voters registered at the polling stations turned away for various reasons despite having their National Identity Cards (NICs),” read FAFEN’s report.

In addition, instances of allocation of more than the legally prescribed number of voters per polling booth led to over-crowding and disorder at some polling stations,” it added.

The report said that another irregularity observed was that the ECGB did not consistently provide For 45 (result of the count) and Form 46 (the ballot paper account) to polling agents inside polling stations during the vote counting process.

This step, according to the report, would have increased the “integrity” of the election results management. “The problem was largely due to numbers of these forms available at the polling stations,” read the report.

“Resultantly, the presiding officers had to issue polling stations’ results to the polling agents on plain papers under their stamps and signatures, the legality of which has yet to be established.”

FAFEN said complaints of polling agents being seated at a distance from where they could not see the voting process or other instances were polling agents and candidates were barred from the ROs’ offices during preparation of the preliminary results, were also reported.

“More serious are reports that candidates and their agents were barred from ROs’ offices during the preparation of the preliminary results in at least three constituencies, and delays in the release of provisional results on Form-47 (Provisional Consolidated Statement of Results of the Count) in more than 10 constituencies,” said FAFEN.

The report acknowledged that independent observers were allowed freedom to observe the voting process. The media, it said, was also able to cover the elections comprehensively.

“However, the ECGB could have released election results progressively as they were received from the polling stations to ensure that the media reported accurate official results promptly, instead of using a parallel system to gather information and report unofficial and potentially unreliable results,” stated FAFEN.

The report by the body comes after the PML-N and the PPP have accused the government of winning the elections via rigging.

Maryam, in Mansehra, lashes out at govt over alleged rigging

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, speaking of the elections recently held for the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly, said people came out in droves to support the PML-N and the “tiger” (PML-N’s election symbol) was visible everywhere, as far as the eye could see.

Maryam claimed “no one is willing to accept the fake results” of the polls.

She said that in 2018, “pre-poll rigging brought the selected government into power”, but this time around, “despite rigging” they were unable to have the “fake government” win by a majority, attributing it to Nawaz Sharif’s narrative that had “reached people far and wide”.

“Now he will not be able to win even with rigging. And despite stealing PML-N candidates, stealing elections, and after having representatives installed for months in Gilgit Baltistan, how many seats did you win? After all that you did. Only eight.”

The PML-N vice president claimed that even these eight people are PML-N turncoats. 

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