Saturday, December 7, 2019 | ePaper

Voters apathy ominous sign for democracy, says EC Mahbub

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Voter turnout in Upazila elections across Bangladesh has halved from that of the parliamentary polls held about six months ago.
Voter apathy an ominous sign for Bangladesh: Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar
Low voter turnout gives EC no headache, Secretary Helal says Voter turnout drops to 36.5 percent in phase-4 Upazila elections
High turnout will cause more irregularities in Upazila polls, EC claims
Mahbub Talukdar wants EC to have greater authority
About 80 percent voters cast ballots in the Dec 30 general election last year while the average vote cast in five phases of Upazilla polls from March is 40.22 percent, according to the Election Commission.
Low turnout made headlines from the beginning of the Upazila polls that lost lustre after the BNP and most other political parties announced boycott alleging irregularities in the parliamentary polls.
After the second phase of voting by the end of March, the then EC secretary Helal Uddin  Ahmed had said the commission had "no headache" over the percentage of votes, but over "maintaining peace".
The secretary had accused the BNP of discouraging voters from going to the polling stations after it stayed away from the ballot.
The turnout dropped further to 36.5 percent in phase-4, after which Helal had said: "Irregularities would have risen had there been efforts to increase the presence of voters."
After the fifth and last phase voting on Wednesday, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar expressed his frustration over the election scenario once again.
"The most worrying aspect of the Upazila elections this time is the voters' apathy towards polls. It's an ominous sign for a democratic country. It's dragging the nation towards an abyss," he said.
He had earlier expressed frustration over the huge number of candidates being elected unopposed.
"How can it be called an election if it is not fully contested?" he had asked.
In the polls to 470 Upazilas, the Awami League's chairman candidates have won in 317 and independent candidates, who are mostly rebel candidates of the ruling party, came out victorious in 149.
Chairman candidates have been elected unopposed in 115 Upazilas.

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