People are turning away from voting

M Sakhawat Hossain

The voter turnout was low at the 12th Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) election. Perhaps it was to overcome such a predicament that the ruling party did not use its symbol in the upazila election. It was kept open to all. Perhaps it was also to draw the opposition into the polls. But none of these objectives were achieved. In fact, the voter turnout was even lower than that of the Jatiya Sangsad election.

The ruling party tried to bring about discipline within the party over the upazila election. That weakness was exposed too.

According to the election commission, the voter turnout in the first phase of the election was 36.1 per cent. Of this, 31.31 per cent of the votes were cast by means of EVM and 37.22 by ballot.

Such a voting rate is extremely low in a local government election. Actually, a lack of enthusiasm has developed among the people about casting their votes. The elections itself remains questionable.

There is no competition in the election. When there is  a one-sided election, then people question what is the point in casting their vote? That is the situation that has emerged. That is why people are losing interest in voting.

A major weakness in the democracy of our country is the crisis of confidence among the people regarding the election. People's enthusiasm about the election is on the wane.

The political parties are to blame for this waning public interest in voting. The ruling party and the opposition both are responsible. After all, it is the responsibility of the political parties to create and uphold people's confidence in the election.

However, the responsibility of the government and the ruling party is the most. How far the election is free, fair and impartial, how far the people are being able to cast their votes and see the results unhindered, all depends on the ruling party. The opposition parties have responsibilities too. They need to play a role in building up people's confidence.

How far the political parties understand this, is another question. But the fact that people are turning away from elections, is dangerous for democracy.

* M Sakhawat Hossain is a former election commissioner

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