Failure of RTS on Election Day under investigation

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News Analysis |

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has launched an investigation straight into the epic failure of Result Transmission System (RTS) on Election Day-July 25.

Political parties are blaming ECP and the establishment over alleged election rigging.  While, on the other hand, ECP has blamed the technological failure of RTS for the delay in the release of election results.

ECP has admitted that according to the international standards, any system must be checked to ensure that no anomalies exit in it. Before the formal use, the operational capability of the system should have been tested, but “due to the lack of time, ECP could not apparently test the RTS,” asserted an ECP official, while speaking to APP.

ECP has also made it clear that July 25 elections were held in a fair and transparent manner across the country and that no substantial evidence of any wrongdoing had been received by the commission.

Read more: Elections 2018: A massive political exercise

Moreover, the independent observers including Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), and European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Pakistan have shown satisfaction with the election process on July 25.

After the 2013 debacle, parliamentarians had demanded that RTS should be used to avoid any wrongdoing/Election Day fraud or controversies. The RTS is an android application which was supposed to enable election officers to send the results to the ECP in real time.

It was an epic failure at a crunch time which stranded the country, and threw the system into oblivion. It was a complete chaos when all the electronic media anxiously waited for the results and the system stopped working. After a much-praised Election Day during which polling went smoothly without any claim of rigging, it gave a likely opportunity to the different political parties to question the fairness of the electoral process.

ECP has also made it clear that July 25 elections were held in a fair and transparent manner across the country and that no substantial evidence of any wrongdoing had been received by the commission.

For the first time, an online system as used to instantly share the election results from 85,000 polling stations around the country to the central headquarters in ECP. The reporters from media were present in the ECP election control room to observe the process.

The RTS software was installed in the smartphones of all Presiding Officers (PO) who were directed to transmit Form 45 (containing tabulated results of the polling station) from their individual polling station to the ECP headquarters using their respective mobile devices.

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Much to the anger of political parties, for some unknown reason, the system crashed and kept running at a very slow pace. The ECP missed its legal deadline of 2 am and a couple of hours before this around 12 am, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had already questioned the transparency of the elections.

Other political parties followed him and cried foul over the failure of the ECP to publish the result in time. Since, according to the instruction manual, polling agents were only supposed to hand over the copies of Form-45 after sending the results through mobile phones. When they could not do so, they started accusing the PO’s of rigging. By overnight, though, roughly PTI’s lead across the country was obvious but official results came at a very slow pace. And, the whole election process had become controversial.

By overnight, though, roughly PTI’s lead across the country was obvious but official results came at very slow pace. And, the whole election process had become controversial.

Read more: ECP to use “highest quality” ballot papers in elections 2018

At some place, much to the anguish of political parties, results on a piece of plain paper were released instead of the ECP’s-issued Form-45. It created much uproar amongst the ranks of defeated parties. ECP is investigating the issue and still adamant that sufficient copies of the forms were available across Pakistan.

Political parties are blaming ECP and the establishment over alleged election rigging.  While, on the other hand, ECP has blamed the technological failure of RTS for the delay in the release of election results. It has urged the stakeholders to accept the people’s verdict.

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