Elections see records in seat numbers, margin

Shawkat Hossain and Riadul Karim | Update:

There have been debates and controversies, both at home and abroad, over the number of votes, turnout of voters and the margin of victory between the winning grand alliance and the opposition candidates in 11th parliamentary elections held in 30 December.

The ruling Awami League-led grand alliance secured 288 seats while the AL itself won 257 seats in the 260 where it alone contested.

Not only had the number of seats, the votes received by the winning candidates and the ratio exceeded all the records in the past.

The unofficial results, given by the election commission, showed the grand alliance obtained 75 per cent of the total turnout while the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party's coalition Jatiya Oikya Front received only 12 to 15 per cent of the votes.

Among the winning candidates, 110 obtained 90 per cent of the total votes.

Such a huge number of votes created discomfort even in the ruling camp.

The BNP rejected the poll results while the masses have been stunned by the results.

This has been a hot topic in the foreign media as well. Leading US daily The Washington Post wrote that such a margin of victory was hardly expected in a democratic nation like Bangladesh.

The victory and the campaign before the election seemed to be exclusively for the ruling party. On election day, the AL simply grabbed the entire field.

There were no agents for the Oikya Front candidates. The BNP alleged the police and administration facilitated the vote rigging.

As many as 17 people died in election violence on voting day.

However, AL president, prime minister Sheikh Hasina said, the BNP itself is responsible for its electoral debacle.

Chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda said, "The polls results were based on how the people voted."

Various political analysts think the BNP lacked preparations and organisational control over the party which is one of the reasons of the grand alliance's landslide victory.

However, political analysts also believe, the way the BNP candidates have been defeated by such huge margins, there would be doubts about the overall results of the elections.

Former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain told Prothom Alo that the BNP even at its lowest in 2008 elections secured 27 seats and 30 per cent of the turnout. The present record low number of votes matter needs to be analysed, he added.

Notably, the AL secured 49 per cent of the total votes cast in 2008 election while the BNP got 33 per cent.

110 candidates got 90 per cent votes

A total of 110 candidates obtained 90 per cent of the total votes. Of them, 108 are AL candidates. The other two were from the Awami League-led alliance -- Mostafa Lutfulla of Workers Party in Satkhira-1 and Jatiya Party’s Anwar Hossain in Pirojpur-2 constituency.

The five of the six candidates who got 99 per cent of the total votes, are health minister Mohammad Nasim in Sirajganj-1, Faruk Khan in Gopalganj-1, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim in Gopalganj-2, Nur-e-Alam Chowdhury Liton in Madaripur-1 and Iqbal Hossain in Shariatpur-1.

And AL chief Sheikh Hasina got over 99 per cent of the votes this time which was as much as 97 per cent in 2008 elections.

The Oikya Front candidates got less than 1 per cent of the votes in these seats.

Among the winners, 89 candidates received 80 to 90 per cent of the votes, 45 got 70 to 79 per cent, 28 candidates received 60 to 69 per cent, 18 people got 50 to 59 per cent and six others received 30 to 49 per cent of the votes. Information about the remaining two candidates was not available.

The opponents of the grand alliance candidates got less than 10 per cent of the votes in 146 seats. Of these, candidates in at least 83 seats have received less than 5 per cent of the total vote. Almost all of them were Oikya Front candidates.

The initial data of the poll results obtained from the election commission showed the above picture.

Competition in only 17 constituencies

The poll results also showed that the polling was competitive in only 17 of the 298 parliamentary constituencies. Most of the seats are in northern region. For instance, Awami League candidate Mazharul Haque secured 55 per cent votes in Panchagarh-1 constituency while his opponent BNP candidate received 42 per cent votes.

In contrast, the BNP's secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has won with a wide margin in Bogura-6 that is generally the contesting seat for BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia. He got 81 per cent of the votes. His nearest rival Jatiya Party's Nurul Islam Omar got only 15 per cent votes.

However, Fakhrul was beaten by a wide margin in his own constituency Thakurgaon-3. He received only 36 per cent of the votes while Ramesh Chandra Sen of Awami League, received 63 per cent.

BNP lost in its stronghold

BNP candidates never lost in Feni-1 and 3 from 1991 to 2008. Similarly Laxmipur 1, 3 and 4 constituencies are known as the BNP's strongholds. In these seats, the Oikya Front candidates lost by a huge margin. The BNP did not get more than 11 per cent votes in any of the three seats of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's own area, Feni.

BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s hometown is considered to be a strong seat for the party. The BNP has fared relatively better in the seats. In Bogura, the BNP candidates won in two seats (Bogura-4 and 6) among seven.

The BNP candidates got nearly 6 per cent votes in Bogura-1, 25 per cent in Bogura-2, 26 per cent in Bogura-3 and 12 per cent in Bogura-5.

Victory with big margin

In the majority of the seats, the margin of votes is more than several thousand. The AL candidate in the Dhaka-19 constituency won with the biggest margin. The difference of total votes with his opponent BNP candidate is 420,648.

Zillul Hakim of Rajbari-2 won by 393,000 votes. AHM Mustafa Kamal in Cumilla-10 received 392,000 more votes than his opponent.

AL candidate in Jamalpur-3, Mirza Azam secured 380,000 more votes while Ekramul B Chowdhury of Noakhali-4 received 372,00 more votes than his rival candidate.

AL candidates in Brahmanbaria-3, Jamalpur-5, Pirozpur-1, Jashore-3 and Sirajganj-1 have received more than 300,00 votes each than their rivals.

Fall of BNP heavyweights

Many heavyweight candidates of BNP have lost by big margins as well. BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed contested in Noakhali-5 seat against AL general secretary Obaidul Quader. Moudud got only 10,970 votes in the constituency. And Obaidul Quader got 93 per cent of the total votes that is counted to be 252,744 votes.

Another standing committee member of BNP, Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain lost in two seats in Cumilla-1 and 2.

Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, also a BNP standing committee member, contesting in Chattogram-11, received only 52,898 votes while Mirza Abbas in Dhaka-8 and Goyeshwar Chandra Roy in Dhaka-3 obtained 38,717 and 16,612 votes respectively.

National University vice-chancellor, political scientist Harun-ur-Rashid said the way the BNP or Oikya Front took part in the election cannot not be called a contest.

“They did not take part in the election wholeheartedly. They were complaining all the time from the very beginning,” he added.

“The BNP lost the election because it lacked organisational and ideological strength. The BNP would have faced the same consequence, no matter which political government conducted the election,” Harun-ur-Rashid concluded.

* This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat

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