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IRI MENA Director Testifies on the Ability of Pakistan to Hold Creditable Elections

December 20, 2007

Washington, DC – Tom Garrett, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Regional Division at IRI, testified today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs chaired by Congressman John Tierney (D-MA).  Garrett’s testimony focused on the findings of IRI’s pre-election observation mission and on the results of IRI’s recent survey of Pakistan public opinion.

In his testimony, Garrett highlighted the concerns of IRI’s pre-election assessment team.  Garrett noted that the assessment was “conducted with IRI’s firm conviction of the need for credible and transparent provincial and national elections.”

Concerns expressed by Pakistani candidates and activists included:

  • decline in law and order within Pakistan;
  • the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Pakistan to meet electoral needs in a timely and objective manner;
  • exile of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was subsequently allowed to return to Pakistan; and
  • the effects of the state of emergency including media censorship and the arrest and detention of political and civil society activists.

IRI’s public opinion research program over two years has clearly proven a consistent Pakistani desire for democratic governance...
Despite the concerns, Garrett announced that IRI is fielding both long-term and short-term observers to monitor Pakistan’s election process.  “With the decision of a majority of parties to contest the election, IRI determined that its role, as a nongovernmental organization promoting democracy, was to work with Pakistani partners on this election in the hopes that future elections can be improved to democratic standards.”

In discussing IRI recent Pakistan poll, Garrett testified that, “IRI’s public opinion research program over two years has clearly proven a consistent Pakistani desire for democratic governance, regardless of which political personality led in head-to-head, comparison polling.  Recent polls also showed that an overwhelming majority, 70 percent, of Pakistanis were opposed to a declaration of emergency.”

IRI has deployed long-term observers to provincial cities and capitals and will be fielding a 65-person international Election Day observer team.  Observers will monitor election campaigning, preparations for Election Day, voting and ballot counting.  Following Election Day, the delegation will issue a preliminary statement on its findings.  A comprehensive report will be issued approximately 45 days after the election.