- DR SHAHID ZIA
Few political parties are planning to take advantage of prevailing ECP crisis to immediately release papers on Rigging in GE-2018. It was a false propaganda of rigging to defame Pakistan. Unfortunately in Pakistan, there is no tradition of accepting election defeat more gracefully. After GE 2018 various nationwide surveys carried out by research organizations and publications revealed that Non of the party won with majority in July 2018 elections , free and fair elections were held. According to the surveys conducted there was a neck-to-neck competition between Imran Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Although, there was a three per cent possibility of error in all the following surveys that were conducted. A survey by Pulse Consultants shows that PTI was ahead by 30 per cent, whereas PML-N was at 27 per cent in GE2018. Similarly, Herald Magazine survey indicated PTI ahead by 29 per cent and PML-N at 25 per cent. Similarly, these surveys reflected that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Bilawal Bhutto did not manage to secure as many seats as the other two mainstream parties, thus ranking mostly below them along with other political parties. Pulse Consultant survey showed PPP at 17 per cent whereas the other political parties ahead by 26 per cent; whereas, the Herald Magazine survey showed the other parties ahead of PPP by 26 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively. Gallup Pakistan survey indicated a twist with their results as the ‘other’ political parties top the survey with 33 per cent, PML-N with 26 per cent, PTI with 25 per cent and PPP at the bottom with 16 per cent. A survey by Currency Market Associates (CMKA) shows similar results as Pulse and Herald where PTI is ahead by 017 seats as compared to PML-N with 79. Moreover, other political parties have secured 56 seats and PPP only managed with 30. Topline and Credit Suisse also indicated PTI ahead with 85-95 seats and 92 seats, respectively. PML-N with 80-90 and 73 seats.. All these surveys are a clear indicator that none of the parties that are in the run for elections has a majority win, however, they can emerge as a coalition in that case. Imran Khan led PTI is still the single largest party when it comes to voting intention. In the survey, respondents were asked ‘If elections were held, which party would you vote for’, with 31% PTI was ahead, followed by PML-N at 28% and PPP at 15%. In GE 2018, PTI had achieved 32% vote, PML-N 24% and PPP had 13% vote. Whereas, there is negligible difference in PTI vote bank since the General Election almost 12 months ago (1% decline is statistically insignificant), rise in PML-N (4% rise) is significant, which has led to closing of the gap between the two parties. A positive sign for PTI is that for majority of PTI supporters, the direction of the country is correct, thereby showing that PTI’s voter base is strong and still stands behind the leadership. Another sign of significant long term success for PTI is that close to 47% Pakistanis support PTI narrative of honesty being more important than short term delivery. Both these signs point to a long term stability in PTI retaining its vote bank and possibly expanding in coming months. In other words, some of the negative readings in the current Political Weather report may wither away. However, time would tell which way the current turbulence goes vis-a-vis public opinion. In the PILDAT assessment on Quality of General Election 2018, a marked improvement is noted in the Polling-day Operations compared to GE 2013 in terms of training and impartiality of polling staff and overall management of the polling arrangements for voters as the process received an overall score of 64% – highest scoring aspect of the quality of GE 2018 – compared to the score of 44% assigned to the same aspect in 2013. It must be noted that in terms of polling day management, a steady improvement is recorded since 2002 and 2008 when the process received a score of 40% respectively, improving to 44% in 2013 and now to 64% in 2018. This is the aspect of election which requires long preparation on the part of the ECP which, along with the polling staff and security forces, need to be commended for the marked improvement on this aspect of the polling day operations. Counting of Votes, Compilation & Transmission of Results have, however, received the lowest score of 40% thus depicting the counting, compilation and transmission of results as the weakest link in the management and quality of General Election 2018. The overall score of quality of General Election 2018 stands at 51.79% which has dropped nearly 5 percentage points from the quality of General Election 2013 assessed to be at 56.76%. PILDAT has proposed investigation into those aspects of the election about which a number of questions have been raised by various political parties and candidates. The PILDAT assessment shows improved Polling-day Operations in GE 2018 compared to GE 2013 in terms of training and impartiality of polling staff and overall management of the polling arrangements for citizens as the process received an overall score of 64%- highest scoring aspect of the quality of GE 2018. The quality of management of polling day operations, satisfactory arrangements and environment of voting, however, seems to have taken a nosedive in the process of Counting, Result Compilation & Transmission of Results which have received the lowest score of 40% in the assessment. It must be noted that this is not just the lowest score for any single aspect of the quality of General Election 2018 but it is also the lowest score in comparison to the processes adopted in 2002, 2008 and 2013 when the similar process received scores of 43% respectively in 2002 and 2008 and improving to 47% in 2013 General Election which has, in 2018 General Election, plummeted to 40%. PILDAT, therefore, proposes that that an urgent, thorough and impartial investigation may be undertaken, a need which even the ECP has at least partially recognized by asking the Cabinet Division of the Government of Pakistan to arrange an investigation into the malfunction of the Result Transmission System (RTS). While the leader of the victorious majority party PTI, Mr. Imran Khan showed magnanimity by offering to investigate rigging complaints of the opposition in any constituency, which is the legal responsibility of the ECP. Following complaints and grey areas are being investigated by the The Senate Standing Committee on Interior: delay in election results, failure of RTS housed in Nadra, issues related to RMS housed in ECP, observations of the members on RTS and RMS, shortage of the Form-45, non-provision of Form-45 to the polling agents, ouster of polling agents from the polling stations, the number of votes rejected, failure of internet services/telephone services in the constituencies, breakdown of internet server at Nadra’s headquarters, did the server of Nadra slow down during the operation?, reservations by the members of Senate in the House, e.g, posting and transfer of presiding officers and returning officers- complaints made by senators from Balochistan, recovery of stamped ballot papers along roadside, dustbins or elsewhere, violation, if any, in awarding contract by Nadra or ECP in violation of PPRA rules, further forensic audit of RTS by an independent private credible company and detecting of any other violation of security code for both RTS and RMS.