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Image of women walking in Islamabad, Pakistan. Copyright: Commonwealth Secretariat. Credit: Minelle Fernandez

Pakistan’s historic General Elections, May 2013

Following an invitation from Pakistan’s Independent Electoral Commission, the Commonwealth Secretariat sent a group of eminent persons to observe the country’s elections in May 2013.

Commonwealth election observers assess the credibility of countries’ elections. Their findings indicate the strength of a country’s electoral and democratic arrangements. 

Commonwealth response: 

The Commonwealth established a Commonwealth Observer Group led by Sir Douglas Kidd, former Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Zealand.

Before the elections the Group met with the electoral authorities, representatives of the main political parties, civil society groups (including youth, women and human rights), High Commissioners, representatives of the media and other international and local agencies that were observing the elections.

During the elections the Group observed and monitored polling stations and counting centres around the country.


The Commonwealth Observer Group noted that these historic elections were marred by unprecedented levels of violence, intimidation and bloodshed, carried out by militant groups attempting to derail the electoral process and disadvantage certain political parties. Despite this, the Group noted several strengths such as the overall voter turn-out and a significant number of first-time voters. This was linked to an improved electoral register and the use of technology to disseminate vital information to voters. The Group’s recommendations included reviewing the effectiveness of security provided to candidates and parties, increasing the participation of women and minorities, and putting in place enforcement mechanisms for Codes of Conduct for political parties.

The Group hailed the successful conclusion of the elections as a significant milestone for Pakistan. The elections represented the first time in Pakistan that power was peacefully transferred from one elected civilian government, after completing its full term, to another. This was the result of consensus among all actors and institutions of the state, polity and citizenry to hold credible elections on time under a strengthened legal framework, and by an empowered Elections Commission. For a country that has faced regular and prolonged periods of military rule, this consensus is a strong signal of Pakistan’s commitment to democracy.