ISLAMABAD - The by-election in PB-26 Quetta-III recorded a declining voters’ turnout and low incidence of electoral irregularities, replicating the trend witnessed during the recent by-polls held after general election, said Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Tuesday.

According to the NGO, it deployed 13 trained, non-partisan and duly accredited observers, including two women for observation of by-election in the constituency. The election findings were recorded on comprehensive and standardized checklists and are based on the reports received from 30 (61%) out of 49 polling stations.

The by-polls followed a lacklustre campaign by the political parties. As many as 14 political parties and eight independent candidates had contested the GE-2018 from PB-26 Quetta-III. The number of contesting candidates, this time, reduced to 18 with only eight political parties fielding their candidates. Moreover, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) withdrew their candidates in support of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMAP) candidate, Wali Muhammad.

During pre-election campaign, the political parties, including Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), Jamait-e-Ulmae Islam (JUI-F), Majlis-e-Wahadat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) and an independent candidate were seen using loudspeakers in their party meetings before polls. Moreover, the observers found the party flags of JUI-F, MWM), PML-N, HDP and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) hoisting at various public places, Fafen said.

The vote-casting process involves several steps, from identing a voter to inserting the ballot paper into the ballot box. A conservative estimate of the time required to complete all these processes suggests that polling staff at one polling booth can accommodate a maximum of 45 voters in an hour. An hourly turnout of more than 45 voters at a polling booth is, therefore, considered to be statistically improbable. FAFEN observation recorded the statistically improbable voting patterns at six (11 per cent) out of 53 polling booths.

ECP had made strict security arrangements for the polls with Frontier Constabulary (FC) and police performing their duties at the polling stations while Pakistan Army was on alert to respond to any untoward incident in the constituency.

HDP candidate Qadir Ali won the by-election by securing 5,351 (34 per cent) of the polled votes while MMAP candidate Wali Muhammad remained runner-up with 4,409 (28 per cent) votes. According to the Provisional Consolidated Statement of the Result of the Count (Form-47), 341 (2 per cent) votes were excluded from the count.

During GE-2018, HDP’s candidate Ahmed Ali Khozad had secured the majority vote in the constituency while MMAP candidate Wali Muhammad had been the runner-up. However, ECP had withheld the notification of the returned candidate after the reports that HDP candidate was Afghan national and later declared the poll in the constituency null and void, the handout said.