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11th general election: TIB finds irregularities in 47 constituencies; EC rejects

  • Published at 03:10 pm January 15th, 2019
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Chairperson of TIB Board of Trustees Dr Sultana Kamal speaks at unveiling ceremony of 'Review of 11th Jatiyo Sangsad Election Process' at TIB’s office in Dhaka on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 Mehedi Hasan/ Dhaka Tribune

The anti-graft watchdog presents a report on the 11th general election process

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has deemed the 11th general election as partially participatory, citing many alleged and witnessed irregularities during voting.

In a primary report, titled “Review of 11th Jatiya Sangsad Election Process,” unveiled at TIB’s office in Dhaka on Tuesday, the anti-graft watchdog also recommended a judicial inquiry into the alleged irregularities.

After surveying randomly selected 50 out of 299 constituencies, TIB in its report said that alleged irregularities took place in one or multiple polling centres in 47 constituencies (94% of the total).

Fake votes were cast in 40 seats (82% of the total) and ballot boxes were stuffed on the night before the election day in 33 seats (66% of the total), said the report.

TIB also said polling stations were occupied in 30 constituencies and polling agents obstructed in 29 constituencies. Voters were forced to vote for a particular symbol in 26 constituencies while opposition leaders and activists were beaten up in 11 constituencies.

However, one of the five election commissioners has rubbished the TIB report, calling it “predetermined and imaginary.”

Speaking at the report unveiling event, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “Though all parties had fielded their own candidates, a level playing field and equal campaigning opportunities for all were not observed. The voters also did not get equal opportunities to exercise their franchises as expected.”

He said the Election commission had failed to create an equal campaigning opportunity for all parties, as opposition candidates faced obstruction while electioneering and organizing rallies. 

“The commission showed a discriminatory attitude and its role was embarrassing,” he said, adding that a quarter of the law enforcement agencies had also shown partiality during polls duty.

Chairperson of TIB’s Board of Trustees Dr Sultana Kamal and Adviser of Executive Management Sumaiya Khair also spoke at the event.

According to the TIB report, irregularities began before the polls when the Election Commission started buying 2,535 electronic voting machines in June last year before getting government approval. The Cabinet had approved the project later in October.

The ruling Awami League alone was active during the campaigning stage in all constituencies across the country, said the report. In some constituencies, officials from local administration and law enforcement agencies had joined the campaigning.

Opposition candidates had faced difficulties while electioneering in 72% of the constituencies, said the report.

It said campaign events of the Awami League had violated the electoral code of conduct in 95.1% of the cases, Jatiya Party in 87.5% cases, and BNP in 30.6% cases.

It added that each candidate of these three parties also violated the code by spending, during the campaigns, more than the expenditure bar of Tk25 lakh set by the Election Commission.

‘TIB report imaginary’

Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Md Rafiqul Islam on Tuesday rejected the anti-corruption watchdog’s report, and termed it “predetermined and imaginary.”

Talking to reporters at his office, he said: “TIB is calling it a research report. But it’s not that. The procedures needed to follow for a research was not followed in this case.

“Also, they are calling it their primary report. This only means that the report is imaginary.”

He also said that TIB did not collect the information regarding vote rigging from the assistant presiding officers or in written documents, which are mandatory.

“TIB also said they have collected the information from randomly selected candidates. In that case, information will vary from a Jamaat candidate and an Awami League candidate.

“TIB did not make it clear who were the candidates they selected. That is why we are not taking it into account,” Rafiqul added.

TIB’s recommendations

1. Appointment of honest, qualified, brave and impartial chief election commissioner and election commissioners, and formulation of a law to ensure that.

2. To hold a free and fair election under a party government, the Election Commission, administration, law enforcement agencies and other authorities concerned must be neutral and free of influence

3. A neutral investigation into all the alleged irregularities during the 11th general election and proper action based on the probe report

4. Election Commission must disclose their failure in maintaining the code of conduct to the people and the government must take initiative to launch a judicial inquiry

5. Complete digitalization of the election process

6. Proper atmosphere for election observers and mass media to work freely must be ensured