An amalgamation of around four dozen NGOS, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has always produced some interesting reports about the elections. Voter statistic reports released by Fafen always give good insight upon the problem of non-participation and non-awareness of democratic processes by the population, especially when it comes to participation of women, minorities and the rural population.
After a few years of good analysis and eye-opening statistics, to get ready for the next elections, Fafen has called for age-wise data of population to determine the exact number of citizens eligible to vote in 2018. It is hoped that these statistics will enable a realistic assessment of voter under-registration, and help the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to minimise lack of participation and disproportionate voting.
An analysis of the recent elections and studies conducted indicate that such a step was direly needed. The NA-4 by election in Peshawar last year showed a low voter turnout for women, something which prompted the ECP to launch a campaign to register more female voters. Such steps are also imperative for political parties to reflect upon themselves and the strategies they need to develop to make the democracy in Pakistan more representative. Statistics released by the ECP in 2017 revealed that 42.4 million out of the nearly 97 million registered voters in the country are between the ages of 18 and 35, encouraging political parties to make more youth-friendly policies.
Assessing our voter-statistics reveal some unfortunate but imperative facts about Pakistan and how we are not a true representative democracy as of yet. There is widespread regional disparity in the proportions of population and registered voters, with registered voters in Baluchistan amount to only about 30pc of its population, while in Punjab, it is over a half. Some statistics are staggering and makes us realize what a long way we have to go- the number of registered voters in Kohistan amounts to merely 17.84pc of the district’s population, while 72.82pc of Jhelum’s population is registered.
The fact that the Chief Minister of Balochistan was elected to the provincial assembly with only 1.18% of the vote of the region shows the dire need for Fafen and ECP to invest in more studies on voter participation. It is a harsh fact that there is unfortunate disparity; between men and women, rural and urban, Punjab and Sindh; and we need such reports and studies to counter such discrepancies, to ensure a stronger democracy.