• Sunday, Feb 23, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:19 pm

Observers give mixed opinions over Dhaka city polls

  • Published at 12:35 am February 2nd, 2020
Kabi Nazrul college-IGP visit-fake queue-MHO
Awami League supporters create a fake queue of voters at the Kabi Nazrul Government College polling centre in Lakshmibazar, Dhaka during a visit by top police officials, including the IGP, on Saturday, February 1, 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The observer praised the EVMs, claiming the system would prevent voter fraud

Mixed reactions to the Dhaka North and Dhaka South city corporation elections have been voiced by various observer organizations.

Prof Maulana Mohammad Abed Ali, secretary general of SAARC Manobadhikar Foundation, said his team found polling agents from all parties at the polling centers they covered. He said he had heard of only one or two incidents of clashes.

The observer praised the EVMs, claiming the system would prevent voter fraud.

Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina casting his vote in Dhaka city polls at at the Dhaka City College centre on Saturday, February 1, 2020 |Focus Bangla/Dhaka Tribune

When asked about the absence of opposition polling agents at two specific centers, he declined to make any comment.

Prof Saber Ahmed Chowdhury of Dhaka University, who is coordinator of Jatiya Nirbachon Porjobekkhon Parishad, said: “Our priority was to see if the voting started on time. It did. But the poor voter turnout was disappointing. But it is an increase from the last time.”

The DU teacher lauded the Election Commission for its programs over the past year that served to make the presiding officers more proactive. Regarding the one-sided polling agent presence, he said it was hard to find polling agents when a party is out of power for so long. He said he had not heard of BNP polling agents being driven out of polling centres by ruling party members.

On the issue of EVM glitches, he said a new project was bound to have a few issues in its first wide scale deployment, but claimed it would benefit people unless they lacked sufficient education.

Photo shows an election official marking a voter with parmanent marker after casting vote in the Dhaka City Corporation Elections on Saturday, February 1, 2020 | Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

He said the reason behind the absence of young voters at the elections called for further research.

Meanwhile, two observer organizations enlisted with the Election Commission expressed their  disinterest in publicizing their findings.

Badiul Alam Majumdar, founder-secretary of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik, slammed the election as a sham.

“There are next to no voters. There is no interest among the people. There is no pressure on the candidates, no air of rivalry among them. This is an indicator of the loss of trust in our electoral process. If this continues, the whole political process may crumble eventually.

“There were very few reports of violence. If nobody turns up, who is going to fight?”

The political analyst Prof Mirza Taslima Sultana of Jahangirnagar University said the polls seemed more like a formality than an exercise of franchise.

“What is important is that each person has privacy and security to cast his or her ballot. But there have been many reports of unauthorized people in restricted spaces attempting to influence voters.”

She said the absence of young voters should not be interpreted as apathy, but a clear and concise refusal to participate in a flawed election.

Abdus Sattar Dulal, president of the National Alliance of Disabled People’s Organizations, said: “Accessibility is imperative for people who have mobility issues. The EC has been neglecting this for a very long time. It has to take responsibility for not addressing the issue properly as it has become a major reason behind poor voter turnout as well.”