The voter turnout in the upazila elections declined steeply amidst the boycott by several political parties including of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda admitted this. However, the result declared by the authorities does not reflect the real picture. The centers where the electronic voting machine (EVM) was used might give more of an accurate reflection of voter turnout. There were big differences in the turnout with EVMs and where there were conventional ballot papers.
Violence persisted despite the lack of interest in voting. This election has become a battlefield of ruling party’s candidates and its rebels. Voting was once deemed a festival in our country, but it is rife with bitterness and consternation. A total of 24 per cent candidates were ‘elected’ unopposed, a trend which does not reflect prudence in the ruling party leadership. It also reflects peoples’ mistrust of the leadership. The election commission does not want take the responsibility of voters’ absence, although one of the commissioners termed it ‘regretful’. The people are familiar with corruption and irregularities centering the election. But the 30 December election has totally shaken our electoral system. And the upazila election is a continuation of that trend.
Analysing the four phases of upazila elections evinced that the concept of political rivalry has been changed in our country. Absence of opposition party in electoral race no longer ensures a peaceful environment. Rival groups within the ruling party have unleashed violence against each other in different places. Even Awami League is making list of lawmakers and party leaders and warning them those who worked against the party nominated candidates. According to newspaper reports, Awami League is considering not giving party nomination to anyone in local elections and keeping it open. But who will take the responsibility for the clashes that took place in previous local body elections? Elections are all about ensuring an open competition and exercising franchise without any hindrance. Failure to ensure that right would not bring any positive change.
The EC has failed to protect the voters’ rights to cast their votes without fear. They failed to prevent ballot stuffing the night before election or fake votes. CEC has said that bringing the voters to the polling centers is beyond their purview. But he should not forget that ensuring an environment which allows a voter to cast his vote without fear is obviously EC’s responsibility. Will not such an irresponsible remark from the EC encourage those who stuff the ballot boxes on the night before elections? Such remarks are not acceptable at all. Responsible remarks and action are expected from a person bestowed with a constitutional post.
The EC should learn from mistakes committed in national and upazila parishad elections if they do not want to destroy the electoral system completely. Election is not a game you can play as you wish. It would be better to leave their posts if they fail to ensure the voting rights of the people.