EU observers satisfied with general election 2018 preparations

LAHORE - Chief Observer, European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) Pakistan 2018 Michael Gahler has expressed satisfaction over the general elections preparedness, security measures and the atmosphere to hold fair, free and transparent elections.“The electoral climate is satisfactory and the technical preparations are well-placed but the elections day (July 25) is the real litmus test of all measures”, he said during an interview with APP. APP photo by Chaudhry Ansar

LAHORE, The chief observer, European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) Pakistan 2018, Michael Gahler, has expressed satisfaction over general election preparedness, security measures and the atmosphere to hold fair, free and transparent elections.“The electoral climate is satisfactory and the technical preparations are well-placed, but the election day (July 25) is the real litmus test of all measures,” he said during an interview with APP at a local hotel here on Thursday.

About the mandate of the EU election observation mission, Gahler said the mission was mandatd to observe elections from beginning to the end and give its recommendations in the light of the feedback from its team of about 100 people. He said the EUEOM was to oberve the entire electoral process, assess operations, legal framework, voting procedure on the election day besides vote counting and transmission of results.

About the procedure, the official said that the mission would engage all political parties, candidates, supporters, local election commison officials, local press and other relevant bodies and know how the atmosphere and election process were being run.

Responding to a query, he said their task was also to receive complaints and watch procedures how the complaints had been handled, adding that they were not supposed to make judgments.
About the team and its working, he said the core team of 10 experts was based in Islamabad, while 60 long-term observers had been divided into 30 teams comprising two members each. He said they would be joined by the EU parliamentarians and the local embassy staff. He said these 100 people would visit multiple constituencies, assess the electoral atmosphere and meet the stakeholders. He said these observers would visit several hundred polling stations and their preliminary and final reports would be based on the data collected by the team members.

Gahler said the law and order situation and overall security scenario, prior to the Mastung terror attack in Balochistan, had improved a lot compared with the 2013 general elections, as he was the EUEOM’s chief observer then as well. He said it was not surprising that terrosist outfits were targetting the final phase of the election campaign and that was why the country experienced three or four terror attacks.

He said that he had been informed by the government that a large number of police, rangers and army personnel would be deployed to protect the polling stations.

He appreciated deployment of army on the polling day to ensure security of voters and ward off any terrorist attack. “It is an unfortunate but a necessary step to deploy the army at polling stations, but it had been done in the past as well,” he added.

Regarding the scope of the observer mission, Gahler said the mission would observe election 2018 in all provinces except for Balochistan, adding that the decision had been made in the wake of Mastung terror attack.

He urged Pakistanis to trun up in large numbers on the election day to strengthen decocracy in theie country.

About the press freedom during election, he said there could be some complaints and the mission would consider those in its final report, adding that anything that curtails information and access was against the spirit of democracy. He said the EU backed the freedom of media and speech.

About allegations of rigging against the goevrnment institutions, Gahler said EUEOM had asked the complinants to approache the right forum for relief as it could not make any judgements, but only observe. He urged the candidates and political parties to report rigging on the polling day and not after losing elections.

He said that security had been provided to the EUEOM, but regretted the bureaucratic hiccups in arrival of 60 long-term observer team. About hospitality, Gahler expressed his gratitude for the love and care the people of Pakistan had extended to them during his visit to the country 2013 as well as in 2018. He said he loved Pakistani cuisine and preferred ‘chicken biryani’ and ‘daal’ (pulses cooked in spice).

He shared his love for mangoes, saying that he took mangoes home after his last visit to Pakistan and liked drinking ‘mango lassi’ (mango smoothie).

Michael Gahler said the political parties should present their programme to their voters and promise they would deliver on it. He urged voters to come out of their houses on the polling day and cast their vote to choose the candidates of their choice. (APP)