'Uncertainty over the election day environment has clouded the minds of many, but I think our law enforcement agencies will fulfill their responsibilities'
With the 11th general election set to be held on Sunday, new voters have expressed hope for a prosperous Bangladesh that is free from fear after the polls.
According to the CGS Peace Report prepared by Bangladesh Peace Observatory (BPO) and DU Center for Genocide Studies (CGS), as many as 12.1 million new voters are going to play a crucial role in determining who will come to power following the election.
This fresh voting population has significant influence on both future trends and attitudes towards the nature of politics, the study said.
Tahia Tahsin is a first time voter in Dhaka 16 constituency. Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, she said she wished to see a safe and violence-free Bangladesh after the election.
“I am going to cast my vote for the first time in the general election. I am expecting that people will go to exercise their voting rights freely and fearlessly,” she said. “If we refrain from casting votes, fearing election violence, how can we expect a fear-free country for the next five years?”
“Uncertainty over the election day environment has clouded the minds of many, but I think our law enforcement agencies will fulfill their responsibilities,” Tahia added.
Another new voter, Abrarul Haque from Gazipur 2 constituency, said: “This is a new Bangladesh with significant economic and social potential. We should not waste our energy on election violence. Rather, it is high time for us to put our collective efforts towards ensuring that the country can reach its full potential.”
“I hope the next government, whoever it is, will concentrate on continuing the country’s current trend of success,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
New voters also said they wanted to see the next administration take steps to tacklecorruption.
First time voter from Brahmanbaria 2 constituency Mashiur Rahman said: “The next government should pay special attention to eliminating corruption in public and private institutions, as I think corruption is one of the main challenges to achieving our goals.”
New voter from Barisal 2 constituency Md Nahian said although the country has made significant economic progress over the last decade, it has largely ignored some core values of democracy such as freedom of speech, human rights, and tolerance of dissent.
“A number of reforms need to be implemented by the new government. Law and order needs to be restored, and the safety of citizens needs to be ensured after the election,” Nahian told the Dhaka Tribune.
Reforms to the education sector, an end to question paper leaks, reducing youth unemployment, and the eradication of extremism are also high on the list of priorities for new voters.
Dhaka University student Mehedi Hasan said: “Our education sector has been severely damaged due to question paper leaks and corruption. The next government should take this seriously and bring necessary reforms to stop question paper leaks. The guilty should be identified and punished according to the law.”
“Furthermore, the radicalization of young people needs to be brought in check by providing proper counseling and guidance, as well as by creating employment opportunities for the youth. I hope the next government will initiate educational and entertaining youth campaigns to bring positive changes to the country,” he added.
According to the CGS Peace Report, of the total 104.4 million registered voters for the polls, 42 million are considered young, in the 18-35 age group. If the age bracket is expanded to 18-40, then over half the voters in the polls would fall under the category.
Both Awami League and BNP focused on young voters in their election manifestos.