Early vote count throws up mixed trends in Pakistan

February 18th, 2008 - 10:14 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS) The ballot count after Monday’s general elections for national and four provincial assemblies initially showed mixed trends with all three major parties leading in different constituencies. The Election Commission has for the first time allowed the presiding officers of polling stations to announce the results soon after the counting at their respective centres.

The trends showed slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leading in Sindh, the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi and the Pakistan Muslim League of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Punjab.

However, these trends can change as more of the votes cast at the country’s 64,176 polling stations are counted.

Pakistanis Monday voted for 242 national assembly and 560 provincial assembly seats. Initial estimates placed the turnout between 35 to 40 percent.

The voting started at 8 a.m. and continued till 5 p.m. Soon after voting ended, the election staff in the presence of party representatives started the count.

According to the procedure adopted by the Election Commission, votes are counted twice or more unless all representatives of the candidates known as “polling agents” are satisfied.

The votes are counted at the polling station and they are signed by the presiding officer, assistant presiding officer and representatives of the political parties or the contesting candidates.

The presiding officers are required to provide a copy of the signed results of the respective polling station to the polling agents, display one copy at the polling station and immediately rush another copy to the returning officer, who in most of the cases are judges.

The results of all the polling stations in one constituency are totalled at the returning officer’s camp office, usually established in state-run schools or other government buildings.

The presiding officer cannot leave the camp office until the result of all polling stations of a particular constituency is compiled and sent to the Election Commission’s provincial or central office.

The returning officer, according to the new law, is required to announce the final result of that constituency in the presence of the representatives of the contesting candidates, display one copy on the outer wall of the camp office and send another copy to the Election Commission’s provincial or central office.

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