THE elections to the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union and hall students’ union finally took place on March 11, 28 years after they had last been held in 1990. The elections at hand started getting into reality, whipping up enthusiasm amidst fears of irregularities in view of what happened in the national and local government elections in the past decade, with the university authorities announcing the full schedule of the elections in the middle of February after the issue had been in conversation for more than a couple of years. But electoral frauds by the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, such as ballot stuffing, disruption in the voting with delays, obstruction to general students from voting and attacks on candidates outside the Chhatra League, in addition to breaches of the code of electoral conduct, broadly marred the elections. Whatever happened centring on the holding of the elections — during, before and after — were better having not happened. All such gross irregularities have brought to the fore the take-all attitude of the Awami League, noticed in the past elections, that has been reflected in the DUCSU elections through the Chhatra League and disrespect to the sanctity of the vote as ballot stuffing had taken place before the actual polling began.
Voters being disfranchised and the sanctity of vote being disrespected by way of the holding of controlled elections that reared their head in the past elections, national and local government, have marred the DUCSU elections. In the 2014 national elections, in which all major political parties but the Awami League kept themselves off the electoral fray, more than a half of the parliamentary seats were ‘elected’ uncontested and in the 2018 national elections, in which voters were obstructed and ballot boxes are reported to have been found before the polling began, hardly allowed voters to exercise their franchise. No local government elections — city corporations, upazila councils and union councils — barring a few were properly held since the 2014 national elections. The by-election to the mayoral position of Dhaka’s North City Corporation of early March, which had all such malice, was non-participatory as major parties in the opposition camp did not contest and voters did not turn out to cast their vote. Ruling political parties, especially the Awami League in the case at hand, are responsible for all such ill practices. And all this appears to have influenced the polling in the DUCSU elections under the patronage of the Dhaka University authorities. Eight teachers of the university who observed the elections independently said that the elections were ‘neither free nor fair’ and demanded re-elections. Five politicians, who once headed the DUCSU, as New Age reported on Tuesday, also termed the holding of the elections ‘shameful’. The authorities of the University of Dhaka cannot avoid the responsibility for holding such unmeaning elections.
It has now become imperative, under the circumstances, for all conscientious sections of society to mount pressure on the ruling quarters to restore the right to franchise to the people and champion the sanctity of the vote, which is vital for democracy. In the case at hand, there should be re-elections to the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union, in view of gross irregularities that happened and in the interest of the sanctity of the vote.
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