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“As there were no contestants against Awami League candidates in mayoral posts, 38 candidates have been elected uncontested,” said Farazi Benazir Ahmed, Bagerhat district election officer and chief coordinator of the election.

Party’s electoral symbols are being used in the elections of chairmen of union parishads since 2016. De facto opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) already announced they will not compete in the elections. As a result, AL policy makers apprehended, rebel candidates will be the main opposition to the party ticket holders in the polls. That’s why the central leaders gave strict message to the grassroots leaders that rebels will not be considered as candidates for “boat” (AL’s electoral symbol) in the future. Ignoring the warning, AL leaders have contested the elections and faced expulsions from the party. However, in most of the union parishads in Bagerhat, leaders could not muster courage to violate party decision. That’s why the number of uncontested winners is so huge there, AL leaders think.

People are showing apathy towards elections. Politics revolves around elections. If elections do take place in this way, people’s apathy will increase
GM Quader, Chairman, Jatiya Party

Voting will be held in around 4,500 union parishads of the country in several phases in the coming months. As part of that, the election commission (EC) on 3 March announced the schedule of first phase election in 371 union parishads. But that was postponed due to the worsening Covid-19 situation. Voting was organised in 204 union parishads on 21 June while postponed at another 167 union parishads as Covid-19 situation worsened in the bordering districts. Among the postponed 167 union parishads, elections will be held in 160 tomorrow.

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BNP and other opposition parties boycotted the 10th Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) elections in 2014 that led to uncontested win for 153 candidates of ruling Awami League and allies. Since then, winning uncontested even in local government elections has become almost a tradition.

Speaking about this, chairman of Jatiya Party, the Opposition in Jatiya Shangsad, GM Quader told Prothom Alo, “People are showing apathy towards elections. Politics revolves around elections. If elections do take place in this way, people’s apathy will increase.”

How will elections be competitive if all the political parties do not come forward? We can’t field rebel candidates just for the sake of competition after announcing the name of party candidates
Mahbub ul Alam Hanif, Awami League joint general secretary

Party symbols were used in pourashava elections for the first time in Parshuram, Feni in 2015. All the Awami League’s candidates for mayor and councillors posts won in the elections. Party symbols were used in the mayoral elections to union parishads around the country in 2016. No one contested against the Awami League candidates in that election in Bagerhat, Feni and many other parts of the country. As a result, ruling party candidates won uncontested in many union parishads. Later, AL candidates won in district parishad elections as BNP boycotted those. Then, the reports of AL candidates winning uncontested in upazila parishad and other local government elections flooded the media houses.

Awami League joint general secretary Mahbub ul Alam Hanif told Prothom Alo, “How will elections be competitive if all the political parties do not come forward? We can’t field rebel candidates just for the sake of competition after announcing the name of party candidates.”

In the past, the union parishad elections also used to be highly competitive. Now, the tendency of winning uncontested is also rising in the lowest rung of local government as well.

Speaking to Prothom Alo about this, Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said, “People have lost trust in the electoral system and the election commission. People now know that at the end of the day, it is the ruling party candidates who will be declared winner. As a result, many people consider taking part in elections as a waste of time and money. At the same time, many people do not want to risk their security taking part in the meaningless election system.”

He said this lack of contestants reveal the real picture of electoral system in Bangladesh.

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