12th general election: 241 constituencies see no competition

Photo shows three men waiting in line to cast vote during the 12th parliamentary election at Dhaka Government Muslim High School in Lakshmi Bazaar, Dhaka on 7 January 2024.Mohiuddin Faruk

Amid the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) boycotting the 12th parliamentary election, the governing Awami League encouraged its party leaders to contest the election independently. Yet, most of the constituencies saw no significant competition as the opponents of “boat” candidates lost their security money in 104 constituencies, shows an analysis of the poll results of 298 constituencies released by the election commission.

The analysis further said only 32 seats saw a better competition where the winning candidate defeated the nearest opponent by a margin of less than 10,000 votes. If the margin of vote is just below 20,000, the number of such seats becomes 57. There was apparently no competition in the remaining 241 constituencies.

Presence of voters was thin although voter turnout, according to the election commission, was 41.80 per cent, but questions rose on the figure.

Many defeated candidates of Awami League or those who contested independently brought allegations of ballot stuffing at the end of the voting. Leaders of Awami League’s allies and partners also made similar allegations. The boat candidates won by a margin of over 200,000 votes in 21 such constituencies.

There are debates over the 10th parliamentary election in 2014 and the 11th parliamentary election in 2018 in the country’s political arena. BNP did not join the 10th parliamentary election, leading to candidates win in the polls uncontested at more than half of the constituencies.

The 9th parliamentary election in 200, like the previous general elections, held under a caretaker government is considered credible. No nearest opponents of the winning candidate lost security money in 2008, and Awami League formed the government winning 230 seats in that election. At that time, winning candidates of the Awami League bagged over 80 per cent of votes in five constituencies.

The 12th parliamentary election was held on 7 January, and polling took place at 299 of 300 constituencies, and the result of a constituency (Mymensingh-3) remains suspended.

Twenty eight out of 44 political parties registered with the election commission participated in the 7 January election. A total of 1,969 including independent candidates contested the election.

Awami League-nominated candidates as well the party’s independent candidates won in 280 constituencies.

Jatiya Party won 11 seats while Kalyan Party, Workers’ Party and Jasod bagged one seat each. Other independent candidates won four seats. All but one of the candidates from the remaining 23 parties lost their security money.

According to the Representation of the People Order, a candidate contesting the election needs to make a deposit of Tk 20,000 in favour of the election commission during the submission of the nomination, and failure to secure at least one-eighth of the total casting ballots by a candidate at a constituency will result in the seizure of the deposited money.

Analysis of polls results show the margin is huge at the constituencies where candidates from other parties came in second, conceding defeat to the candidate of Awami League. In many cases, the nearest opponent of Awami League candidates did not even get 2,000 votes. The margin is comparatively low at the constituencies where independent candidates were also from Awami League.

Other than Jatiya Party and independent candidates, the opponents of Awami League were from Workers Party, Jasod, Bangladesh Congress, Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, Zaker Party, Bangladesh Islamic Front, Bangladesh Sanskritic Muktijot, Islamic Okyajote, Bangladesh Nationalist Movement (BNM), Bangladesh Supreme Party, Trinomul BNP and National People’s Party.

Workers Party and Jasod candidates contested the election with ‘boat’ symbol after negotiating with Awami League on the respective seats.

Along with 104 nearest opponents of Awami League candidates, two candidates of the Jatiya Party and independent candidate Pankaj Nath lost security money. In total, the nearest opponents of the winning Awami League candidates lost their security money in 107 constituencies.

Besides, local leaders and activists of Awami League campaigned for Jatiya Party’s Salim Osman in the Narayanganj-5 and Masud Uddin Chowdhury in Feni-3. Incumbent lawmaker Pankaj Nath contested the election from the Barishal-4 seat and won, and the nomination of Awami League candidate was cancelled.

Analysis of the election results also revealed that a few constituencies saw ferocious competition. In Dhaka-5, independent candidate and former general secretary of Awami League’s Demra unit Moshiur Rhaman Mollah defeated boat candidate Harunur Rashid by 297 votes. In Netrakona-3, independent candidate Iftikar Uddin Talukder defeated Awami League-nominated candidate Ashim Kumar Ukil by 2,253 votes.

In Rajshahi-5, independent candidate Obaidur Rahman conceded defeat to boat candidate Abdul Wadud by a margin of 3,051 votes while independent candidate Abul Kalam defeated boat candidate in Natore-1 seats by less than 2,000 votes.

Constituencies see the least competition

The nearest opponent of the winning Awami League candidates lost security money in 13 out 20 constituencies in Dhaka city and district. These defeated candidates bagged less than 5,000 votes in 13 seats and competed moderately in three constituencies.

Eleven candidates contested the election at Dhaka-8 seat. Awami League joint general secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim (boat) bagged 46,610 votes to win the polls while his nearest opponent Jober Alam Khan of Jatiya Party secured 880 votes.

In Dhaka-17 constituency, Awami League-nominated candidate Mohammad Ali Arafat bagged 48,059 votes and his nearest rival candidate Ainul Haque (kula) of Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh got 1,380 votes.

Awami League-nominated candidates BM Kabirul Haque and Mashrafi Bin Mortaza won in Narail-1 and Narail-2 constituencies by a margin of over 100,000 votes and their nearest candidates bagged less than 5,000 votes.

Boat candidates won in all four seats of Bhola district by over 100,000 votes and all the remaining candidates lost their  security deposit.

All but Awami League-nominated candidates lost security money in six out of 11 constituencies in Cumilla and Awami League-nominated candidates won in five seats by a margin of over 100,000 votes. Polls results were more or less similar in several other constituencies including Feni-1 and Feni-2.

Victory by a margin of over 200,000 votes

Awami League-nominated candidates completely dominated at 21 constituencies as all of them bagged over 200,000 votes. Among them, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim won in Gopalganj-2 by the largest margin of 293,777 votes as he secured 295,291 votes and his nearest opponent Kazi Shaeen of Jatiya Party bagged 1,514 votes.

Tanvir Shakil Joy won in Sirajganj-1 constituency by a margin of over 300,000 votes while Mirza Azam, Sharif Ahmed and Dipankar Talukder won in Jamalpur-1, Mymensingh-2 and Rangamati respectively by a margin of over 250,000 votes.

“Many unusual and unprecedented events took place in this election,” Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said adding, usually voter presence remains higher at the constituencies that see a competition, but this time the opposite scenario was seen.

There was no competition in this election; the ruling party adopted a number of strategies but the presence of voters was thin, said this election analyst.

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna