THE Transparency International, Bangladesh report on 50 constituencies that it monitored in the December 30 general elections, made public on Tuesday, is worrying. While the report grossly terms the 11th parliamentary elections partially participatory, non-competitive, questionable and flawed, it says that ballots were stamped on the eve of the polling in 33 constituencies, the administration and law enforcement agencies remained idle in 42 constituencies, fake voting took place in 41 constituencies and polling stations were captured in 30 constituencies. Furthermore, as the report says, polling agents and voters were intimidated in 26 constituencies, voters were forced to cast their vote for a certain electoral symbol in 22 constituencies, voters were asked to leave polling stations in 21 constituencies, ballot boxes were found full before polling in 20 constituencies and opposition activist were tortured in 11 constituencies. Given the picture, there are hardly any reasons for polling in remaining constituencies to be considered better. All this brings the whole of the elections into question while it points to glaring failures of the Election Commission and the incumbent party. What rather happened only on the polling day, from polling to vote counting, the elections can well be described as a mockery of people’s right to franchise in the hands of the incumbent Election Commission and the incumbent political quarters.
The Transparency International, Bangladesh further comes to say that foreign and local election observation groups faced obstacles in monitoring the elections; some organisations were not allowed to observe the elections because of their alleged political link while some others having links with the incumbent party were. The report also says that candidates running in 50 constituencies spent more at least three times the ceiling of Tk 2.5 million while candidates from the Awami League spent on an average Tk 13.3 million, which is five times the ceiling. The watchdog also comes up to say that the chief election commissioner has come to be mired in conflict of interest as he did not give any explanation over the candidacy of a close relative of him. If intensified violence that took place both during the campaign period and on the polling day, arrest of candidates, leaders and activists of parties and alliances in the opposition, harassment and intimidation of opposition candidates and leaders both by the law enforcement agencies and activists of the incumbent party and its wings and brazen inaction of the Election Commission in ensuring a level playing field and in stopping breaches of the code of conduct for the electoral process are considered, the elections appear to be unmeaning.
The Transparency International, in a situation like this, recommends a judicial inquiry of the incidents that centred on the elections as they all gave rise to scepticism in people about the holding of the elections. It also suggests the enactment of a law on the appointment of the chief and other election commissions so that similar irregularities do not repeat in future. In view of such a worrying situation, almost all parties in the opposition that took part in the general elections have come up with the demand for re-polling. The demand sounds reasonable.
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