ISLAMABAD (MEDIA REPORT)
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has developed a software that will be provided to 500 returning officers for sharing the exact vote count of candidates from each polling station all over the country soon after the counting process is completed. “It will help ensure free and fair elections in the country as more than 80 percent returning officers will send results to the ECP through this software,” UNDP’s Country Director Marc-Andre Franche said in his first exclusive interview with any media outlet after his appointment here in Pakistan couple of months back here at his office on Friday. With assistance of $15 million spent through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the developed software under Result Management System will ensure the results are announced in a transparent manner on the same night or next morning of the elections day. “We will also provide 600,000 tamper evident bags having foolproof sealing which will be given to each polling station to counter fraud in a major way,” he added.He said five scanned copies would be carved out from each polling station of which one would be placed outside soon after announcement of results. The announced results can be compared with the results announced on the website of the ECP, he added. The UNDP’s country head, a Canadian national, replied different questions in more than one hour interview and said different donors including Australia, European Union, Japan, Norway and US contributed in the $15 million assistance for the ECP and they helped them through three major initiatives by empowering and educating voters. “It will be first election in the country’s history in which 20 million new voters will cast their votes and it will be a major step for curtailing the existing feudal governance system,” he added. Deliberating upon the initiative of Result Management System, he said the ECP developed the software, which would be sent to 484 returning officers of the country to ensure election results from each polling station of the country in a transparent manner. He said the special bags will help reduce occurrence of fraud in the election process. The ECP, he said, brought changes in results forms which would be provided at all polling stations to ascertain pattern of gender disaggregation. “First time in the country’s history, we will exactly know how many women cast votes in each polling station all over the country. If anywhere women would be denied to cast votes, it would surface on immediate basis,” he maintained. He said they were currently providing training to 700,000 polling staff with the help of other partners. “The UNDP trained master trainers for improving election system,” he noted. He said they were also providing training to 18,000 election security officials. He said there was not single country where 100 percent free and fair elections were held, but added in the same breath that the upcoming elections in Pakistan would be significantly better than last time. He said the UNDP would continue assisting the ECP even after next general elections as they wanted to establish institutionalised mechanism, which would also help the commission to hold local bodies’ elections in the next phase. Pakistan, he said, had not held local bodies’ elections since long and it was expected that it would be done in 2013 or 2014. “We will continue supporting the ECP after the elections in order to benefit from lessons learnt during this process,” he said. To a query regarding no capacity building of returning officers for accomplishing scrutiny process in effective manner, he conceded that it was a missing link and they would include it for the part of ‘lessons learnt’ process and would not repeat it in the next phase of local elections.