EU Expresses Regret Over Lack of “Level Playing Field” in Pakistan General Elections

In the wake of reports of rigging in the Pakistan general elections held on February 8, the European Union (EU) has expressed regret over the absence of a “level playing field” for leaders of all political parties, particularly noting restrictions on former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI).

As official results indicate independent candidates backed by Imran Khan in the lead, three-time former leader Nawaz Sharif claims his party holds the majority mandate. The National Assembly, with a total of 266 elected members, requires a party or coalition to secure 134 seats for victory.

In a statement, the EU’s High Representative, on behalf of the EU, acknowledged the completion of polling in the general elections amid months of postponement and uncertainty. The EU expressed regret over the lack of a level playing field, citing restrictions on political actors, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, internet access limitations, and allegations of interference in the electoral process.

Independent candidates, mainly supported by PTI, are leading with 52 seats, according to provisional results from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). PML-N follows closely with 40 seats, and PPP has 19 seats.

The EU called for a timely and full investigation into reported irregularities, emphasizing the importance of implementing recommendations from the upcoming EU Election Expert Mission report. The statement recognized the authorities’ challenge in countering terrorist threats and attacks.

The EU condemned pre-election violence and urged parties to use peaceful mechanisms to settle differences. It stressed the significance of political pluralism, democratic values, independent media, civil society, judicial independence, and human rights standards.

Former PM Imran Khan, currently incarcerated, was disqualified from contesting due to criminal convictions, and PTI’s electoral symbol was revoked. As a result, PTI leaders and supporters participated as independent candidates.

The EU welcomed the people’s commitment to democracy despite systemic barriers faced by women and minorities. It urged Pakistan to continue reforms in human rights, governance, labor rights, and environmental standards, addressing shortcomings outlined in the GSP+ report of November 2023, and continuing necessary economic reforms.

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