The proposed demarcation of 38 electoral constituencies in 16 districts by the Election Commission (EC) has provoked angry responses from MPs and ministers.
Of the 38 parliamentary seats, five are in Dhaka, four in Comilla, three in Rangpur, and two each in Nilphamari, Kurigram, Pabna, Magura, Khulna, Satkhira, Jamalpur, Narayanganj, Shariatpur, Moulvibazar, Brahmanbaria, Noakhali, and Chittagong.
The EC said it had sought to balance the number of voters in these constituencies. However, significant variation in voter population persists among constituencies.
Variation in size of voter population among electoral constituencies
During the demarcation process, the EC prioritized issues such as population in some constituencies, while it privileged administrative integrity and geographic communication in others.
However, the demarcation act stipulates prioritizing all three issues – population, administrative integrity, and geographic communication – when redrawing the electoral boundaries.
During their consultation with the EC, MPs had asked the latter to focus on population size when developing the draft demarcation proposal.
MPs have now expressed concern about the significant variation in voter population size of electoral constituencies in the draft demarcation list.
EC Secretary Helal Uddin said anyone dissatisfied with the changes has to file an application seeking changes by April 1. “After scrutinizing the applications [if any], a gazette of 300 parliamentary constituencies will be published by April 30,” he said.
MPs, ministers angry
Most of the MPs and ministers have emphatically criticized the proposed draft.
“It is unacceptable,” Shariatpur 3 MP Nahim Razzaq told the Dhaka Tribune. “We do not support their [EC’s] proposal because it had tabled the same thing during the 2013 demarcation. We had challenged the decision then and won.”
“The EC is talking about balancing the number of voters per constituency. My electoral area Bhederganj has 235,000 voters but the EC’s proposal will bring down the number in Shariatpur 3 seat to below 200,000. This will increase the number of voters in Shariatpur 2 to over 300,000,” Razzaq said.
“This constitutes major discrimination. It was because of this discrimination that the boundary was demarcated in 2008,” he added.
Chittagong 7 constituency comprises the district’s Rangunia upazila and Boalkhali upazila’s Sreepur Kharandwip union. The Awami League’s Publicity and Publications Secretary Hasan Mahmud is the incumbent MP.
“The EC has proposed keeping only Rangunia in the constituency and attaching Boalkhali with Chittagong City Corporation’s ward numbers 3 to 7. This will increase Chittagong 8’s voter population to nearly 500,000. It will also decrease the Chittagong 7 seat’s voter number to below 250,000,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
As for changes to Narayanganj 4 and 5 seats, parliamentarian Shamim Osman said, “Boundaries have been changed before. The people’s representatives work for their specific areas. Frequent changes in boundaries naturally cause problems.”
Comilla 6 MP AKM Bahauddin said changes to his constituency would lead to administrative complexities and that he would appeal against the decision.
Daudkandi upazila Chairman Mohammad Ali said that Comilla 2 had about 42,000 fewer voters compared to Comilla 1 in the 2008 and 2014 elections. “If Meghna-Homna is attached to Comilla 2 as per the EC’s proposals, then it will have about 150,000 fewer voters compared to Comilla 1,” he noted.
Changes proposed for Satkhira 3 and 4 constituencies have seen the locality of Satkhira 3 MP and former health minister AFM Ruhal Haque attached to the Satkhira 4 seat.
“The difference in voter number between these two constituencies in the past was between 20,000 and 30,000. But the new changes would take it to between 100,000 and 150,000,” he told the media. “This is unacceptable.”
He said he would challenge the EC’s decision and hoped the boundary would remain unchanged.
SM Jaglul Hayder, the parliamentarian from Satkhira 4, said he would speak to Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and inform her about his objections to the EC move.
Jatiya Party’s Rangpur metropolitan unit General Secretary SM Yasir said ward numbers 8 and 9 were previously under Rangpur Sadar 3 constituency but will fall under Rangpur 1 according to the EC’s proposed demarcation. This would not be good for the locals, he said. Yasir demanded the demarcation of Rangpur 1 seat without wards eight and nine.
BNP’s Rangpur district unit President Saiful Islam dubbed the demarcation of Rangpur 1, 2, and 3 constituencies as part of a “conspiracy” but did not provide elaboration.
Our Rangpur correspondent Liakat Ali Badal and Comilla correspondent Masud Alam contributed to this article