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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Mixed verdict on Pakistan polls
A Voting  centre in Pakistan
The report says voting was largely transparent
Commonwealth observers who monitored the recent elections in Pakistan say polling itself was generally fair - but raise questions about the run-up to the election.

Benazir Bhutto
Exclusion of Benazir Bhutto was criticised
They say that for the most part, they observed a well-organised and transparent electoral process.

But they also note shortcomings such as ballot boxes which were not sealed properly, some women discouraged from voting, and some officials who were not properly trained.

European monitors said they thought the election was seriously flawed.

The polls were the first national elections since the coup in 1999, in which General Musharraf seized power.

However, they were overshadowed by controversy over restrictions introduced by the military government, which debarred two former premiers from standing.

Pre-poll problems

The Commonwealth observers generally commend what happened on polling day itself.

They praise the counting of ballots at polling stations, and the provision of security by the police rather than the army.

General Pervez Musharraf
The report is also critical of General Musharraf's new powers
However, the observers are far less happy with the way things went in the run-up to polling day.

Restrictions imposed by the government on campaigning, and the exclusion from the poll of some prominent political leaders, adversely affected the credibility of the electoral process, the observers say.

Among those who could not stand were the former prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.

The monitors also say measures introduced in August giving President Musharraf the capacity to override parliamentary legislation, and to dismiss the prime minister and parliament, raise questions as to the sovereignty of the legislature.

The observers say the elections were a welcome step, introducing elected national and provisional assemblies where there was previously only a military regime.

But they add that the democratic process is incomplete, and they look forward to the complete restoration of democracy.

They say they will leave it up to Commonwealth leaders to determine whether the polls were consistent with the organisation's fundamental values.

The Commonwealth suspended Pakistan's membership shortly after the military coup.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

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