European Union Observation Mission Report on General Elections 2018 is good for Pakistan
LAHORE – European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) Pakistan 2018 chief observer Michael Gahler on Thursday expressed satisfaction over general election preparedness, security measures and the atmosphere to hold fair, free and transparent elections.
He said that the electoral climate is satisfactory and the technical preparations are well-placed, but the election day (July 25) is the real litmus test of all measures.
About the mandate of the EU election observation mission, Gahler said the mission was mandated to observe elections from beginning to the end and give its recommendations in the light of the feedback from its team of about 100 people. He said the EUEOM was to observe the entire electoral process, assess operations, legal framework, voting procedure on the election day besides vote counting and transmission of results.
About the procedure, the official said that the mission would engage all political parties, candidates, supporters, local election commission officials, local press and other relevant bodies and know how the atmosphere and election process were being run.
Responding to a query, he said their task was also to receive complaints and watch procedures how the complaints had been handled, adding that they were not supposed to make judgments.
About the team and its working, he said the core team of 10 experts was based in Islamabad, while 60 long-term observers had been divided into 30 teams comprising two members each. He said they would be joined by the EU parliamentarians and the local embassy staff.
He said these 100 people would visit multiple constituencies, assess the electoral atmosphere and meet the stakeholders. He said these observers would visit several hundred polling stations and their preliminary and final reports would be based on the data collected by the team members.
Gahler said the law and order situation and overall security scenario, prior to the Mastung terror attack in Balochistan, had improved a lot compared with the 2013 general elections, as he was the EUEOM’s chief observer then as well. He said it was not surprising that terrorist outfits were targeting the final phase of the election campaign and that was why the country experienced three or four terror attacks.
He said that he had been informed by the government that a large number of police, rangers and army personnel would be deployed to protect the polling stations.
He appreciated deployment of army on the polling day to ensure security of voters and ward off any terrorist attack. “It is an unfortunate but a necessary step to deploy the army at polling stations, but it had been done in the past as well,” he added.
Regarding the scope of the observer mission, Gahler said the mission would observe election 2018 in all provinces except for Balochistan, adding that the decision had been made in the wake of Mastung terror attack.
He urged Pakistanis to turn up in large numbers on the election day to strengthen democracy in their country.
About the press freedom during election, he said there could be some complaints and the mission would consider those in its final report, adding that anything that curtails information and access was against the spirit of democracy. He said the EU backed the freedom of media and speech.
About allegations of rigging against the government institutions, Gahler said EUEOM had asked the complainants to approach the right forum for relief as it could not make any judgements, but only observe. He urged the candidates and political parties to report rigging on the polling day and not after losing elections.
He said that security had been provided to the EUEOM, but regretted the bureaucratic hiccups in arrival of 60 long-term observer team. Michael Gahler said the political parties should present their program to their voters and promise they would deliver on it. He urged voters to come out of their houses on the polling day and cast their vote to choose the candidates of their choice. - APP