THE voting statistics on the 2018 general elections that the Election Commission has came up with do not only lend credence to the public perception that ballot stuffing, even the night before polling, booth capturing, voter obstruction and the intimidation of polling agents working for candidates outside the Awami League and its allies largely marked the polling but also question the level of efforts that election authorities put in to make the affairs free and fair. The Election Commission’s polling centre-wise statistics on the general elections, published on its web site on Saturday, show that all voters in at least 213 polling centres in 103 constituencies cast their ballot, which by any standards appears to be implausible and speaks of significant problems with the polling. Besides, as the statistics show, votes were cast in the ranges of 90–100 per cent in 7,689 polling centres while votes were cast in the ranges of 90–90.99 per cent in all polling centres of 14 constituencies. The statistics put the voter turnout at 89.36 per cent, which the election authorities put at more or less 80 per cent the day after the elections. Less than a half votes were cast only in four constituencies.
Ruling Awami league candidates came out winners in most of the constituencies where all votes were cast in one or more than one polling centres. While experts believe that not more than 20 per cent of the votes were in effect cast, an election commissioner, who did agree on Saturday that all votes being cast in a polling centre was abnormal and it suggests irregularities to have happened, however, sought to put the blame down to the ‘technical method of counting’, which again sounds unreasonable. The chief election commissioner on Sunday also termed all votes being cast in 213 centres abnormal but sought to shrug off its responsibilities saying that the commission had nothing to do as the official notification on the elections results had already been made. The Transparency International, Bangladesh in the middle of January came up with such a report, based on polling centres in 50 constituencies that it monitored, saying that the December 2018 parliamentary elections, although partially participatory, were non-competitive, questionable and flawed as ballots were stamped on the eve of the polling in 33 constituencies, fake voting took place in 41 constituencies, polling centres were captured in 30 constituencies and voters were obstructed on the polling day. Elections could then be described as a mockery of people’s right to franchise in the hands of the Election Commission and the incumbent political quarters.
The whole electoral process, marked by electoral frauds, appears to have left society disenfranchised which was reflected in the subsequent voting, especially elections to the upazila councils, as candidates felt there is no meaning in contesting the elections and voters felt no urge to exercise their right to franchise, which is ominous for the political culture of the country. While the situation warrants that the election authorities and the government must mend their ways, there should be no denying that the incumbents having been elected through such a questionable voting will continue to be mired in legitimacy crisis.
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