ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN), in its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Election Observation Report 2021, termed the local government elections orderly, lawful and transparent but fell short of complete compliance with procedural formalities.
Pakistan inched towards installation of the constitutionally-promised local governments (LGs) when around 40 per cent of registered voters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) turned out to vote on December 19, 2021 in 17 districts to elect more than 14,000 representatives on general and reserved seats, and four city mayors and 60 Tehsil chairmen.
The FAFEN report stated that in what was undoubtedly one of the largest and most complex electoral exercises in the country, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been able to manage the pre-election and election day processes by the law and procedures, despite last minute court orders that had declared the legal scheme of LG elections – that were to be originally contested on a non-party basis – ultra vires to the Constitution.
The LG elections during the first phase were held in Peshawar, Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Haripur, Mardan, Bannu, Khyber, Mohmand, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.
During this phase, the LG elections were held for four city mayors of Kohat, Peshawar, Mardan and Bannu while the election for the city mayor of DI Khan was postponed due to the assassination of the Awami National Party (ANP) candidate.
Moreover, the LG polls were held for 60 Tehsil chairmen, and more than 2,200 village and neighbourhood councils. A lower turnout than the general elections 2018 was recorded during these elections. The turnout remained around 40 per cent as compared to 45.8 per cent in the general elections 2018. However, the turnout in the current LG elections is almost equivalent to 2015 LG elections when it remained 40.50 per cent in the province.
According to unofficial results of 46 Tehsils released by the ECP, the turnout remained 40 per cent – highest being 60 per cent in Paroa in DI Khan and the lowest 22 per cent in Tall, Hangu. These turnout figures have been prepared on the basis of Form XIX (Provisional Consolidated Statement of Results of the Count) for the seats of Tehsil chairmen and city mayors. The expectation of a high turnout may have not been met due to multiple factors but not excluding a general distrust in the efficacy of LGs, which have largely remained under-powered to deliver upon the expectations of people during their last tenure 2015-2019. However, the gender disaggregated turnout is not available as 26 Forms XIX do not contain this data.
According to available gender-disaggregated data for 20 Tehsils, female turnout remained 16.69 per cent as compared to 26.96 per cent male turnout. At none of these Tehsils, for which gender-disaggregated data is available, the turnout of women remained less than 10 per cent of the total polled votes.
As many as 25 of these provisional results have a margin of victory which is less than the number of ballots excluded from the count, though the decision for the final rejection of these excluded ballots will be made after their review by the returning officers (ROs) during the proceeding for results consolidation to be completed on December 24, 2021. Of these, eight Tehsils have been won by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), six by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (JUIP), five by Awami National Party (ANP), two by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), one each by Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) and Tehreek-e-Islahaat Party (TIP), and two by independents.
The FAFEN’s Observation Report of KPLG Elections 2021 stated that the positive aspect of these elections is the prompt acceptance of their results by all major political parties in the province, particularly the senior leaders of the PTI which lost ground to rival opposition parties in many of its strongholds. “This will augur well for democracy and may just be the first in Pakistan’s political history where election results have generally been challenged and electoral defeats not generously accepted,” the report stated.