The prime minister's ICT adviser responds to Oikya Front’s allegations of vote rigging
On a Facebook post, Prime Minister's ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy said Awami League won by a large margin in the December 30 general election because of the people’s mandate and the party’s work in developing Bangladesh.
Joy in the post said: “The BNP and Oikya Front, having been thoroughly rejected by our voters, have taken to begging their foreign masters for help. They are on an international lobbying and PR blitz to try to prove that our elections were rigged. The fact is that it is mathematically impossible.
“The Awami League's margin over the BNP is about 49 million votes. It is simply not possible to manipulate elections by 49 million votes without it being caught on everyone’s mobile camera. As for their claims of voter intimidation, even if every voter who did not vote for AL voted for Oikya Front, they would still be more than 22 million votes short.”
“Still, a section of our so called ‘civil society’ continues to join the BNP’s international PR campaign against our election. I would like to address all their complaints and raise a few of my own,” Joy, also the prime minister’s son, said.
“The first complaint is that voter turnout was too high and indicates false votes. The final voter turnout figure is 80% and it is not a record in Bangladesh. That distinction is held by the 2008 elections under the 2007-2008 "caretaker" regime when turnout was 87%. The AL won that election in a landslide with 48% of the vote by itself. In 2001 the voter turnout was around 75.6% and in 1996 it was 75%. Turnout was just slightly higher because this is the first fully participatory elections in a decade.
“The second propaganda is that the ruling party received 90% of the vote. This is a complete falsehood. The AL by itself received around 72%. Our Mohajote allies received just under 5%. Even the 72% is not a record for the AL. In the 1973 election after Independence the AL received 73.2% of the vote. Just as the reason then was the AL led the country to independence, our vote increase this time has two very good reasons,” he said.
Joy attributed Awami League’s big win to the party’s development projects over the last 10 years.
“The first reason is simply because our AL Government has improved the lives of our citizens more than any other government in Bangladesh’s history. We have become a middle income country, per capita income has trebled, poverty has been halved, almost everyone has access to education, basic healthcare, electricity, and the list is endless. If there was a way to improve the lives of the Bangladeshi people, our government has done it or the progress is visible,” he said.
“Our ‘civil society’ keeps harping about how the Bangladeshi voters are anti-incumbent, but that is just an indication of how out of touch they are with the common man. If you are an ordinary citizen, even if you are a wealthy businessman, your life and business are doing so much better now since the AL has turned Bangladesh into the fastest growing economy in the world. Why would you vote against the government that has transformed your life and business?
“The second reason is that our election campaign did not start last year. It started right after the 2014 elections. We have not wasted any opportunity to inform the Bangladeshi people that we, the Awami League, are solely responsible for the positive changes in their lives. All the social and economic successes that have happened were because of the vision, planning, execution and hard work of our AL ministers, members of parliament, councilors, everyone. While our opposition and ‘civil society’ were busy complaining about problems, we were telling people how we were providing solutions,” he further said.
“One of the favorite refrains of our ‘civil society’ was that we have the largest number of new voters in this election; they don’t care about political parties and would be anti-incumbent. What they did not consider was that these young men and women grew up with the visible development work of our AL Government making their lives better and easier every year. Why would they vote for anyone else?
“I have been conducting opinion polls for the Awami League since 2013. If you will notice, there was a dearth of opinion polls from our ‘civil society’ this year. Prior to the 2014 elections they were busy publicizing one poll after another on how badly the Awami League was going to lose. The fact is very few people and organizations in Bangladesh know how to conduct an accurate opinion poll.
“I have studied polling at Harvard and have interviewed and tried several polling teams in Bangladesh before I found the one we use. We don’t do artificial polls to inflate our popularity because that does not give us the information we need. We poll to know what our popularity is for elections and so our polls need to be accurate.
“Our final opinion poll two weeks before the elections showed that the AL would receive between 57%-63% of the vote and the BNP would receive between 19%-25%. So how did the AL receive 72% of the vote? Our opinion poll sampled the entire voters list in 300 constituencies, all 104 million voters. But there is never 100% voter turnout and elections were held in 298 seats, not 300. The number of registered voters in the 298 seats was 103.5 million and an 80% turnout means 82.8 million people voted. The AL received about 60 million votes. 60 million out of 103.5 million is 58% of registered voters in those seats. The AL actually received votes on the low side of our poll’s margin of error,” he said.
“So why did the Oikya Front receive so few votes? There are some very logical reasons. The BNP’s Chairperson has been convicted and is in jail. Their Acting Chairperson is a fugitive who is not even in Bangladesh. Their organization is in complete disarray. But those are not the most significant factors. There is one factor our ‘civil society’ doesn’t want to acknowledge as it makes the BNP look really, really bad!
“I’ve observed its effect through annual opinion polls. Once the BNP started burning civilians alive during their 2013-15 arson attack campaign, their popularity fell off a cliff. Prior to the arson attacks the BNP was usually around 10% behind the AL in opinion polls. After the arson attacks they fell 30% behind and kept falling.
“Then there was their self-defeating election campaign, or rather a lack of it. The first thing they did was bring out Tarique Rahman to pick election nominees. All this managed to do is remind people of Hawa Bhaban and his corruption and violence. To add fuel to the fire, he picked known and wanted criminals and war criminals as candidates! Do you think their popularity would increase or decrease after this?
“Next, the message they kept sending out to their supporters until the last minute was that they would boycott the elections. If you think your party is going to boycott, are you going to go out to vote? This is what caused the drop in their voter turnout and hence, their low percentage of the vote.
“Finally, the only message the BNP and Oikya Front had for the people of Bangladesh is that the AL is bad. Given that the people could see the visible improvements in their lives over the past decade of the AL Government, this was an extremely tough sell.
“The Oikya Front’s figurehead Kamal Hossain did not even run in this election. Why is that? It is because he knew he had absolutely no chance of winning a seat for himself. Of course, they surprised us. For the very first time in their existence as a political non-entity, his Gono Forum has actually won not one, but two seats! If there was any rigging in these elections, how could an opposition party that has never won a single seat win two?
“The truth is far simpler. If you’re a citizen and especially a youth who sees a dynamic leader such as Sheikh Hasina developing and transforming the country, it won’t matter how much mud the opposition slings. At the end of the day you are going to vote for the party that is improving your life and the country,” he concluded.