In what was considered as a litmus test for PTI’s popularity and validity, the NA-4 victory has consolidated PTI’s position in the province. While the analysts deemed it a neck-to-neck contest between PTI, PML-N, and ANP, PTI’s performance proved them wrong.

Should one take the results of by-election as an indicator of people’s mood for the upcoming 2018 elections? If the ruling party loses, one should. If it retains, one should not. PTI should not consider the recent victory as the guarantee of emerging victorious in the upcoming elections. While it will not be ruling the province then, many factors will be at play against them. It will be a difficult task for PTI not to lose seats in the general elections in the province otherwise known for not allowing a party to make a consecutive government.

Some parallels can be drawn between the recently held by-elections in NA 120 and NA-4. In both of the constituencies, the ruling parties retained the vacant seats. People were confident that those who control the provinces would keep the seats. However, analysts were proven wrong in both cases. While analysts were optimistic of an easy win for PML-N, the lead of the party was not convincing. In the latter case, where pundits were looking for a tight competition between PTI, PML-N and ANP, the candidate of ruling party proved all analyses wrong.

While the overall environment in which polling was conducted was peaceful, however, independent observers, including individuals and NGOs, raised certain reservations on the activities during the polling process. FAFEN, an NGO working to ensure transparency in the polling process, highlighted the low participation of female voters, unchecked campaign and canvassing around polling stations as the critical deficiencies in the process.  Also, the observers were barred from reporting on the procedure of voting, despite the fact that these individuals were carrying ECP’s accreditation. The security personnel were poorly trained for the security of polling process.

The observers faced almost the same hurdles, which they confronted during the by-election in NA-120. While they were barred from inspecting the polling stations in both constituencies, they also witnessed a gross violation of ECP’s Code of Conduct in both areas. As the observers have already noted down the discrepancies and made reports of such abuses prevalent in recently held by-elections, provinces, as well as the federation, need to consider the recommendations seriously to ensure free and fair elections that are due next year.