Following two days of vote counting, the Pakistani Election Commission formally declared that Imran Khan’s party was the winner of the country’s parliamentary elections. EU observers concluded on Friday that the results were “credible,” but criticized a “lack of equality” in the contest and said that the playing field was more uneven since the last vote in 2013.
“Although there were several legal provisions aimed at ensuring a level playing field, we have concluded that there was a lack of equality and opportunity,” Michael Gahler, chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission, said at a press conference.
In its initial findings, the EU concluded that the Pakistani elections were relatively transparent, but raised the alarm on unfair pre-election practices.
Pre-poll curbs on media and a crackdown on Pakistan Muslim League party’s (PML-N) activists and officials were noticeable, Michael Gahler told DW, emphasizing that the pre-election environment matters.
At the packed press conference in Islamabad, Gahler said that the 2018 elections had been worse than in 2013, but ascertained that the Pakistani military had not interfered in the voting process, DW correspondent Naomi Conrad reported.
“A number of violent attacks targeting political parties, party leaders, candidates and election officials, severely affected the campaign environment,” he added.
“Many of our interlocutors acknowledged a systematic effort to undermine the former ruling party through cases of corruption, contempt of court and terrorist charges against its leaders and candidates,” he continued.
Despite legal provisions, he said: “We have concluded that there was a lack of equality of opportunity”.
“On election day, polling was assessed as well conducted and transparent,” Gahler said. “However, counting was somewhat problematic with staff not always following the procedures.”