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Dhaka Tribune

SCBA polls convenor denies telling media number of votes cast

  • Votes were cast on Wednesday, Thursday
  • Video of final announcement on SCBA's Facebook page
Update : 11 Mar 2024, 04:58 PM

Discrepancies have shown up in the results of the Supreme Court Bar Association’s election for 2024-25, announced past midnight on Saturday, following tremendous controversy that arose around the vote counting over the weekend. Votes were cast on Wednesday and Thursday.

Now it emerges that the voting tallies announced by senior advocate Abul Khair, convenor of the SCBA’s election sub-committee, do not match the reported number of votes cast. Specifically, they exceed the number of votes cast, 5,319, that was reported widely across the media on Thursday and Friday.

Talking to UNB on Monday morning, Advocate Abul Khair denied ever disclosing the number of votes cast in the election, even though a number of outlets did quote him as the source of that information. UNB was not among them.

“You will find no such announcement in my voice,” he asserted.

There was also no objection from the SCBA to the reported number of votes cast, till the discrepancies came to light. Some outlets have continued reporting the 5,319 figure even after the results were announced, seemingly oblivious to any discrepancy.

“Even if someone from the committee said so, it was wrong. The number of votes cast is what came out in the final announcement,” he said, without disclosing the number.

A video of the final announcement can be found on the SCBA's Facebook page. In it, we find that Advocate Abul Khair starts off by commenting on the controversy surrounding the election, and what they had to go through in order to overcome it. He then proceeds to announce the names of the candidates elected as members, without offering their vote tallies.

After reporters present at the auditorium insist on hearing the vote tallies, Advocate Khair does start announcing them for the more important positions.

Once he gets to the important post of secretary, for which there were four candidates, he announces: “Number 1 on the ballot Farhaduddin Bhuiyan won 60 votes. Number 2 Ruhul Quddus Kajol won 1,702 votes. Third on the ball Nahid Sultana Juthi won 269 votes. Fourth on the ballot Shah Manjurul Haque won 3,319 votes.”

He then proceeds to declare Shah Manjurul Haque, from the pro-Awami League Bangabandhu Awami Ainjibi Parishad (White Panel), the winner of the election for the secretary post.

But using a calculator, we find that the votes announced in each candidate’s favour add up to 5,350, exceeding the reported number of votes cast by 31.

Coming to the president’s post, which also had four candidates, Advocate Abul Khair started in reverse order this time: “Ballot number four, MK Rahman, got 229 votes. Third on the ballot, Eunus Ali Akhond, got 46 votes. Number 1 on the ballot, Abu Sayeed Shagor received 2,539 votes. And number 2 on the ballot, one who is always lucky in the voting, Mahbubuddin Khokon, received 2,622 votes.”

He then proceeds to declare Khokon, from the the pro-BNP Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum (Blue Panel), the winner of the president’s post.

But if you add up the votes declared on each candidate’s behalf, they add up to 5436-117 more than the reported votes cast. This is especially significant because in the vote for president, the margin of victory was just 83 votes.

The total size of the electorate for the SCBA election was 7,883. Although Advocate Abul Khair is now denying it, reportedly 3,261 lawyers voted on the first day of polling, on Wednesday, March 6. Another 2,058 cast their votes on Thursday, for a total of 5,319.

The aggregated votes of the candidates in an election can never exceed the number of votes cast.

That brings us to another discrepancy. On Sunday, while answering an unrelated question, Advocate Abul Khair told a private television channel that not a single ballot was found where a vote was cast for president, but not for secretary. This video can still be found on the internet.

If that is correct, the number of votes cast in total for secretary and president should be equal. But that is not the case. As we've seen, the number of votes cast for president was 5,436, while for secretary it was 5,350.

When this was put to Advocate Abul Khair, he said the votes were cast, but they must have been disqualified as “invalid”.

“For example, they may have double-crossed the name of their chosen candidate for secretary, instead of ticking it,” he said.

Even though they followed the correct method in their vote for president, on the same ballot?

“Yes, it happens,” he said.

He was loath to disclose the number of invalid votes, saying they kept no account of it, and that although everything has been preserved, they were now sealed for security purposes. Finding out would require unsealing them, he said.

“There were invalid votes for president also,” he added.

So how many votes were actually cast in the election?

“For now we can only say the number of votes cast for each post," Advocate Khair said, without quoting any numbers. "There is no scope to declare an overall total. And the number of votes cast for each post was the total that came out during the announcement on Saturday night.”

Barring the “invalid” ones, of course.

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