Ballot not free or fair, says poll watchdog

Ballot not free or fair, says poll watchdog

Sunday's general election lacked integrity and was not free and fair, according to the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (P-Net).

A statement from the non-governmental election watchdog on Monday claimed that its networks in 63 provinces across the country, along with community organisation councils, have been monitoring the work of the Election Commission (EC) since the poll was announced.

P-Net has also observed senator selection, MP candidate applications as well as the parties' campaigns.

The EC members, who were selected only six to seven months before the election, lacked the experience and capability to hold the poll effectively, the statement read.

The EC, it said, failed to usher in regulations that would help promote public understanding about the new system and accommodate election monitoring.

For example, the EC announced a reward for informants of poll fraud only one day ahead of the election, it said.

According to P-Net, the EC was unprepared for overseas advance voting with a substantial number of ballots failing to be delivered to their polling stations in time.

In the advance voting, ballot papers from different constituencies were handed to voters.

Polling station staff also did not appear to follow regulations strictly, due to poor training, and this was particularly evident during the vote counting, the statement read.

According to the foundation, the EC did not have voluntary observers at polling stations, making the process vulnerable to fraud. In many cases, officers were found to have manipulated the vote casting, it claimed.

"The turnout of voters was much lower than the EC's expectation, which resulted from the lack of public relations carried out ahead of the event," P-Net said.

Despite reports of vote buying in many areas, there was a lack of coordination of relevant officers to deal with them, P-Net alleged, noting that the EC should have issued "orange cards" as part of the measures to stem fraud.

New "orange cards" have been added to the EC's existing yellow- and red-card penalties. An orange card would see the election rights of a winning candidate suspended for a year if evidence was found they were involved in fraud.

Referring to MP candidates and political parties, P-Net said some relied on the influence of state officials and vote-buying to secure victory. This happened in many areas, particularly in the North, Central Plains and Northeast, it said.

The foundation also indicated that a lack of understanding of the new system among the electorate resulted in the high number of invalidated ballots.


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