Prime minister’s ICT affairs adviser Sajeeb Wajed Joy has called ‘mathematically impossible’ the opposition claims of vote rigging in view of the margin of votes that offered Awami League the landslide victory in the December 30 elections.
‘The Awami League’s margin over the BNP is about 49 million votes. It is simply not possible to manipulate elections by 49 million votes without it being caught on everyone’s mobile camera,’ Joy said in a post on his facebook on Saturday.
‘The fact is that it is mathematically impossible,’ he added.
Joy accused Jatiya Oikya Front with Bangladesh Nationalist Party being its key partner of lobbying with their ‘foreign masters’ to prove rigging in the just concluded national elections.
‘The BNP and Oikya Front, having been thoroughly rejected by our voters, have taken to begging their foreign masters for help. They are on an international lobbying and PR blitz to try to prove that our elections were rigged,’ he said.
As for their claims of voter intimidation, Joy said, even if every voter who did not vote for AL voted for the Oikyofront, ‘they would still be more than 22 million votes short’.
The PM’s adviser simultaneously criticised ‘a section of the so called civil society’ for their continued support to BNP’s international PR campaign against the election while refuting point-wise their allegations saying, ‘I would like to address all their complaints and raise a few of my own’.
The first complaint of theirs, he said, was that voter turnout was too high and indicates false votes.
The final voter turnout figure was 80 per cent and it was not a record in Bangladesh and that distinction was held by the 2008 elections under the 2007-2008 ‘caretaker’ regime when turnout was 87 per cent, he said, adding that the AL won that election in a landslide with 48 per cent of the vote by itself.
In 2001 the voter turnout was around 75.6 per cent and in 1996 it was 75 per cent.
Turnout was just slightly higher in December 30 polls because this was the first fully participatory election in a decade, he said.
The second propaganda, he said, was that the ruling party received 90 per cent of the vote. This was a complete falsehood, he said, adding that the AL by itself received around 72 per cent.
‘Our Mohajote allies received just under 5 per cent. Even the 72 per cent is not a record for the AL. In the 1973 election after independence the AL received 73.2 per cent of the vote and just as the reason then was that the AL led the country to Independence,’ Joy said.
AL’s vote increase this time has two very good reasons.
The first reason, he said, was simply because AL government had improved the lives of the citizens more than any other government in Bangladesh’s history.
‘We have become a middle income country, per capita income has tripled, poverty has been halved, almost everyone has access to education, basic healthcare, electricity, and the list is endless. If there was a way to improve the lives of the Bangladeshi people, our government has done it or the progress is visible,’ he added.
About the role of civil society he said, civil society members kept harping about how the Bangladeshi voters were anti-incumbent, but that was just an indication of how out of touch they were with the common man.
‘If you are an ordinary citizen, even if you are a wealthy businessman, your life and business are doing so much better now since the AL has turned Bangladesh into the fastest growing economy in the world,’ he said.
‘Why would you vote against the government that has transformed your life and business?’ he commented.
The second reason, he said, was that AL’s election campaign did not start last year. It started right after the 2014 elections.
‘We have not wasted any opportunity to inform the Bangladeshi people that we, the Awami League, are solely responsible for the positive changes in their lives. While the opposition and ‘civil society’ were busy complaining about problems, we were telling people how we were providing solutions,’ said
He said one of the favorite refrains of the ‘civil society’ was that AL had the largest number of new voters in this election, who did not care about political parties and would be anti-incumbent.
‘What they did not consider was that these young men and women grew up with the visible development work of our AL government making their lives better and easier every year. Why would they vote for anyone else?’ he added.
Mentioning his experience about conducting opinion polls, Joy said he has been conducting opinion polls for the Awami League since 2013. He had studied polling at Harvard and had interviewed and tried several polling teams in Bangladesh before he found the one he used.
Prior to the 2014 elections, he said, civil society were busy publicising one poll after another how badly the Awami League was going to lose.
‘The fact is very few people and organisations in Bangladesh know how to conduct an accurate opinion poll. We don’t do artificial polls to inflate our popularity because that does not give us the information we need. We poll to know what our popularity is for elections and so our polls need to be accurate,’ he added.
Final opinion poll two weeks before the elections showed that the AL would receive between 57 per cent-63 per cent of the vote and the BNP would receive between 19 per cent-25 per cent. So how did the AL receive 72 per cent of the vote? The opinion poll sampled the entire voters list in 300 constituencies, all 104 million voters.
But there is never 100 per cent voter turnout and elections were held in 298 seats, not 300.
The number of registered voters in the 298 seats was 103.5 million and an 80 per cent turnout means 82.8 million people voted.
The AL received about 60 million votes. 60 million out of 103.5 million is 58 per cent of registered voters in those seats.
The AL actually received votes on the low side of the poll’s margin of error, he explained.
About BNP’s polls campaign, he said there was their self-defeating election campaign, or rather a lack of it.
The first thing they did was bring out Tariq Rahman to pick election nominees, he said, adding that all this managed to do is remind people of Hawa Bhaban and Tariq Rahman’s corruption and violence. To add fuel to the fire, he picked known and wanted criminals and war criminals as candidates, he added.
Next, the message they kept sending out to their supporters until the last minute was that they would boycott the elections, he said, adding, ‘If you think your party is going to boycott, are you going to go out to vote? This is what caused the drop in their voter turnout and hence, their low percentage of the vote.’
Finally, the only message the BNP and Oikyo Front had for the people of Bangladesh was that the AL was bad. Given that the people could see the visible improvements in their lives over the past decade of the AL government this was an extremely tough sell.
He said Oikyo Front’s figurehead Kamal Hossain did not even run in this election. It was because Kamal Hossain knew he had absolutely no chance of winning a seat for himself, he added.
Of course, Oikyo Front surprised all. For the very first time in their existence as a political non-entity, his Gono Forum has actually won not one, but two seats!
‘If there was any rigging in these elections, how could an opposition party that has never won a single seat win two? The truth is far simpler. If you’re a citizen and especially a youth who sees a dynamic leader such as Sheikh Hasina developing and transforming the country, it won’t matter how much mud the opposition slings. At the end of the day you are going to vote for the party that is improving your life and the country,’ Joy concluded.
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