The Awami League nominated candidates have become more cornered by the rebel and independent candidates in the fourth phase of union parishad (UP) polls. Almost half of the Awami League candidates for the post of UP chairman were defeated. Of them, the ruling Awami League was not even in the main contest in 162 UPs.
BNP, Awami League’s main rival in politics have officially boycotted this local government election. Despite that, the winning rate of Awami League has gradually declined in each phase. In several unions, the Awami League candidates could not even secure enough votes to protect their security money, let alone being in the contest. In some unions, Awami League nominated candidates got less than 100 votes.
Faridpur is known as a stronghold of Awami League. But the poll result in Boalmari upazila in this district turned out to be a complete fiasco for the ruling party. Of the 10 union parishads in Boalmari, Awami League candidates were defeated in nine. Among them, three did not even get enough votes to save their security money. Earlier in the third phase, the Awami League candidates were defeated in 13 of the 14 union parishads in Bhanga and Charbhadrasan upazila of Faridpur.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Boalmari upazila Awami League’s general secretary Pikul Mirdah said, “I am ashamed of the poll result. I cannot even leave my house in shame. I can’t meet anyone out of shame either.”
The upazila Awami League leader said they had informed the centre about the image of potential candidates in each union. But for some unknown reason it was not taken into account.
Abdur Rahman, former MP of Faridpur-1 constituency and presidium member of Awami League, believes that the poll result in Boalmari was disastrous as the local Awami League did not work together for the party nominated candidates.
Conflicts within the party, grouping and personal choice of the local leaders also have played a part behind this fiasco. Besides, political polarisation in the area and interest of vested coterie also had a role. The candidates have been chosen as per the recommendations from the grassroots. It is just an excuse that deserving candidates had not been nominated, he added.
In the fourth phase, a total of 836 unions went to polls on Sunday. The Election Commission (EC) secretariat declared the results of 796 UP polls on Monday. According to that, Awami League candidates have won in 396 unions for the post of chairman. Independent candidates have won in 390 UPs. And candidates from the other parties have won in the remaining union parishads.
According to the correspondents of Prothom Alo, at least 197 among the winning independent candidates are rebel candidates of Awami League. They took part in the election as independently as they failed to secure the party nomination. Besides, some 75 BNP leaders have been elected as UP chairman contesting as independent candidates.
Analysing the results of fourth phase of the UP polls, it was found that apart from Awami League’s stronghold Faridpur, the party nominated candidates were defeated in several unions of Rajbari, Nilphamari, Rangpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Tangail, Rangamati, Kushtia and Jhenaidah.
Awami League did not have candidates in 27 UPs during the fourth phase polls. As such, Awami League has won in 51.49 per cent unions, which is the lowest among all the fourth phases. Earlier, elections to some 365 unions were held in April and June this year in the first phase of UP polls. Awami League won in 76 per cent of UPs in the first phase. The number lowered to 59 per cent during the second phase of UP polls and 54 per cent in the third phase.
The Awami League’s winning rate in the first UP polls with party symbols in 2016 was much better than the third and fourth phase polls this year. BNP took part in the election that time. However, that election was highly controversial. Elections to some 4,104 unions were held in six phases in 2016. Of them, Awami League won in 4,652 unions. As such, the winning rate of Awami League was nearly 65 per cent.
Hasan Mahmud, information minister and joint general secretary of Awami League, in response to a question from Prothom Alo regarding the poll results on Monday at the secretariat, said those in the position after the Awami League candidates are those from Awami League who are deprived of nomination. Although, BNP did not officially participate in the elections, their leaders took part as independent candidates. Only a handful of them have won. In the case of the Jatiya Party, it is even less. The information minister’s assessment is that the UP polls have proved that there is no alternative to Awami League in the country.
The scenario of Awami League’s defeat
Awami League faced a crushing defeat in Pabna. The candidates of AL's boat symbol were defeated in all of the nine unions of Pabna Sadar upazila. Awami candidates were also defeated in three of the five unions of Atghoria upazila and two of the four unions of Bhangura upazila in the district.
The locals say this dismal performance in the polls is the result of nominating wrong candidates and internal conflicts of the party. They say opinions from the grassroots were overlooked in nominating the candidates.
Acting president of Pabna district Awami League, Rezaul Rahim told Prothom Alo that there is no conflict within the party. They are investigating the reasons behind such a heavy defeat in the UP polls.
The rebel candidates of Awami League have won in 10 of the 15 unions in Jhenaidah sadar upazila. The candidates of the ruling party won in the remaining five UPs. The scenario is quite the same in Laxmipur. Of the 15 unions in the Sadar upazila of the district, Awami League has won only in six while the rebel candidates of the ruling party won in eight and an independent candidate won in one union.
Awami League has lost the polls in seven of the nine union parishads in Shribardi upazila in Sherpur. In Saidpur upazila of Nilphamari, Awami League candidates were defeated in four of the five unions. In Laxmipur Sadar upazila, the candidates of boat symbol lost the poll in nine of the 15 unions.
Among the hilly districts, the ruling party did well in Khagrachhari and Bandarban in the fourth phase of UP polls. But they faced a crushing defeat in Rangamati. The Awami League nominated candidates were defeated in nine of the 10 UPs there. There were no official candidates of BNP, Jatiya Party or any other local party there.
When asked about the fiasco in the poll results, Md Muchha Matabbar, general secretary of Rangamati Awami League, said their candidates could not conduct the election campaign properly due to the gun-toting cadres. Besides, the voters were also intimidated.
However, district election officer Md Shafiqur Rahman said they held a fair and transparent election in each of the 10 unions.
Awami League got only 67 votes in Chakaria
Awami League nominated Md Shah Newaz secured only 67 votes in the election of Chiringa union parishad of Chakaria upazila. He was sixth among the six candidates. The local activists and leaders of the party blame Jafar Alam, ruling party MP from Cox Bazar-1, for such a small number of votes in favour of Awami League.
With 3,655 votes, Awami League’s rebel candidate Jamal Hossain Chowdhury has been elected as the chairman of this union. He is a relative of MP Jafar alam. He is also the president of Chiringa union Awami League. Earlier during the third phase of the UP polls, Awami League candidate Jannatul Bakeya got only 99 votes in Koiarbil union of the upazila.
When asked about getting such a low number of votes, Awami League candidate Shah Newaj said the leaders and the activities of the party did not take part in his election campaign. Following the instruction of MP Jafar Alam they worked against him. As a result, he was defeated.
However, MP Jafar Alam couldn’t be reached despite repeatedly trying over the phone for his comment in this regard. On 25 December, a day before the election, he was ordered by the Election Commission to leave the area on the allegations of breaching the electoral code of conduct.
Elected chairman Jamal Hossain Chowdhury said the party did not nominate the eligible person. For this reason, Awami League had to face such a heavy defeat in the poll.
Awami League candidate got only 93 votes in Syedpur
Awami League’s rebel candidate Masud Rana was elected the chairman of Khata Madhupur union in Syedpur of upazila of Nilphamari with 7,406 votes while party nominated candidate Hasina Begum secured only 93 votes.
Hasina Begum said, “I have been betrayed. The leaders and activists of the party worked for the rebel candidate.”
[Prothom Alo’s staff correspondents and correspondents from the concerned area have helped in making this report]
*This report originally appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been re-written in English by Ashish Basu