Low turnout of voters in city polls upsets AL
Joint meeting today to address the issue
The confidence of the ruling Awami League (AL) has been shattered after observing the low turnout of voters in two Dhaka city corporation elections held on February 1.
The ruling party has seen the lowest turnout of voters after a massive victory in the 11th general elections.
The party is in power for three consecutive terms but has failed to attract the city dwellers to cast their votes despite showcasing different development projects.
There was no lack of campaigns and pledges to attract the voters for the ruling party candidates.
Though AL-backed mayoral candidates got victory but low participation of voters has made AL upset.
Election Commission (EC) also took several attempts to make voters aware about polls and the newly introduced Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). They gave assurance to voters about the safety of polling stations and arranged exhibition of EVM at different times in different places of the city.
But, people showed less interest to all these initiatives and did not go to the polling stations in the expected numbers.
Statistics shows that around 75 per cent of the voters did not exercise their right of franchise in last Dhaka city elections. Around 25 per cent vote has been cast in Dhaka North city polls and 29 per cent in Dhaka South city polls. Which is very poor compared to the previous elections.
Many AL leaders think that AL-backed mayoral candidates did not get votes from their vote bank. Newly-elected Mayor of DNCC Atiqul Islam got around 14 per cent of the total votes and Mayor of DSCC Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh got 17 per cent of the total votes. This figure of the voter participation has made the ruling party worried about democracy and their own organizational strength.
Some AL policymakers think that grassroots level organizational weakness is one of the major reasons for the low turnout. To identify the major causes of low turnout in city polls AL is going to sit for analyzing it in a joint committee meeting with party President Sheikh Hasina today (February 15) at Ganabhaban.
Already the party sat with the AL lawmakers of Dhaka city area on February 8 and gathered some probable reasons for the low turnout for presenting it in the upcoming working committee meeting.
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader on several occasion told journalists that the low turnout of voters was because of the party's weakness at the grassroots level and he saw low turnout as a threat to democracy.
Quader said, "If we were organizationally strong at the ward level, I think participation of more voters in city polls could be ensured. But, we failed to ensure voters presence at the polling stations. That's why the voters' turnout was very poor."
He also indicated that all grassroots level committees of AL and its associated bodies will be reorganized and those will be made effective with clean-image leaders of the party.
On the other hand, regarding the lower turnout in city polls, coordinator of Dhaka North City Corporation election for AL-backed candidates and also the senior leader of AL Tofail Ahmed said at a programme that transport crisis and cold weather were the main reasons for lower presence of voters in the polling stations.
Another coordinator of Dhaka South City Corporation election for AL Amir Hossain Amu said, "Many people left Dhaka city to avail the holidays as a result of rescheduling the election date. Some people could not go to the polling stations for transportation crisis. It resulted in a low turnout."
In this regard, accepting their own pitfalls AL Presidium Member and the coordinator of 14-party alliance Muhammad Nasim said, "Economic condition has improved in the country, including towns and villages. Why people showed reluctance to cast their votes despite such development and success? I am not saying we have no faults. Every government has some faults, definitely we have some too."
"Now it's time for self-criticism and self-realization. We have to find the facts. Otherwise, democracy would be under threat." Nasim added.
Negative propaganda by opposition and transportation crisis has been made responsible for the low turnout by AL Joint General Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim.
He told the Daily Observer, "Arranging a participatory and peaceful election is the task of EC. Dhaka city election was a free, fair and peaceful. But, the presence of voters was really disappointing."
Nasim said, "BNP took the city election as part of their anti-government movement. The announcement of such a major political party has created panic among the people. It caused lower turnout in the polls."
Blaming the transportation crisis on the polling day he said, "Most of the people of Dhaka city are tenants and many of them switch residences randomly from one area to another. But, they are voters of a certain area. Because of vehicle restriction on the polling day people could not move from their present addresses to the polling stations to cast their votes."