By Prudence Arobani
New York – The Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar-led Commonwealth Observer Group has given a pass mark to the Pakistan’s general election, saying the poll has generally strengthened the country’s democracy.
The Commonwealth team said the election marked “important milestone” in the history of the country, following two consecutive democratically-elected civilian governments completing their full terms.
Final results of the elections are yet to be released by the Election Commission of Pakistan, said the Commonwealth Secretariat, in a statement by Josephine Latu-Sanft, its Senior Communications Officer.
In an Interim Statement released on the Group’s observations of the election, the former Head of State of Nigeria commended the people of Pakistan for exercising their right to vote.
More than 50 million Pakistanis came out to exercise their franchise, in spite of terrorists attacks claiming more than 200 lives in the weeks prior and on the election day itself.
Latu-Sanft quoted Abubakar, Chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group, as saying: “The 2018 General Election was an important milestone in strengthening democracy in Pakistan…
“We commend the voters, the election commission, polling staff, political parties, candidates, their agents, the security forces and all others for their respective roles.”
The Commonwealth Observer Group arrived in Pakistan on July 18.
Members held a wide range of consultations with the electoral commission, political parties, government officials, observers, members of civil society, the media and the diplomatic community.
They also held consultations with the military, before they were deployed to polling stations across the country.
These polling stations included locations in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Karachi and Hyderabad.
Announcing its interim findings, the Commonwealth group noted a clear improvement in election laws since the previous elections.
“For example, the new Elections Act 2017 gave more independence and autonomy for the election commission and new measures to enhance women’s political participation.
“We noted that women responded to these reforms positively and voted in greater numbers compared to earlier elections. Women also played a commendable role in the administration of elections.
“We observed that the election commission was generally well-prepared for the polls in most areas and that the process was, on the whole, well-administered,” Abubakar said on the election day.
However, the former Nigerian leader said there were key areas for improvement, as counting methods, the results transmission system, and inconsistency in applying electoral procedures, were amongst several areas highlighted.
The final report, including recommendations, would be submitted in a final report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
Scotland would, in turn, forward the report to the Government of Pakistan, Election Commission of Pakistan, political parties taking part in the elections and all Commonwealth Governments.
Thereafter, the report would then be made public.
The Commonwealth Observer Group was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole.
It determines, in its own judgment, whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Pakistan has committed itself, with reference to national election-related legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth, and other international commitments.