JANIPOP Interim Observation Report on the Chittagong City Corporation Elections-2010

JANIPOP – Jatiya Nirbachan Parjobekkhon Parishad has observed the Chittagong City Corporation Elections, held on June 17, 2010 on a mobile basis. 6 teams of JANIPOP, each consisting of 5 observers and led by Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, Chairman & Founder of the organization, have observed around 200 polling stations out of 673 of Chitttagong City Corporation.

The pre-election scenario was almost peaceful. The contesting candidates submitted their nomination papers in due course. Few candidates withdrew their nomination papers in favor of other candidates. The election commission was quite assertive in enforcing adherence to electoral code of conduct. The Returning Officer concerned played a pivotal role in ensuring the display of the BEC’s independence with reference to Opposition Law maker Salauddin Kader Choudhury’s detention incidence on the eve of the Election Day.

The JANIPOP team observed that apart from the Presiding Officer two polling officers and one Assistant Presiding Officer were seen in each center. There were multiple booths in every polling station. This time the law enforcing agencies were very visible in the entire area. In most of the polling stations, huge police personnel were deployed. Besides this Ansar and Cost Guard members were very much visible. RAB and Military patrol was also visible throughout the area. Magistrates were seen to be on mobile duty. JANIPOP observers met the Returning Officer at several polling stations. JANIPOP observers also met the team members of UNDP, NDI and several local election observation NGOs.

This election marks the piloting of E-Voting in 14 polling stations of Ward Zamal Khan of CCC (No. 21). In the beginning of polling process, many voters were in confusion regarding the new system; however, things became normal after a couple of hours. Many voters appreciated the introduction of E-Voting. JANIPOP observed that there was almost no queues in polling booths as it took very short time to cast a vote.  But old and less educated voters felt uneasiness in this system. In the general polling stations, JANIPOP teams observed that voters cast their vote slowly compared to those of Electronic voting system. JANIPOP team observed a chaotic situation in ward # 3 in polling station No 51 where 3 booths were set up in one room. In ward # 10, in polling Station NO 207, 208 & 209 less than fifty votes were cast at 9:50 am. In ward 27, Polling Station No 457, booth No 5 at 12:35 pm Poling Officer Mr. Rafiqueullah was found influencing voters to cast vote in favor of the symbol pineapple. The.. PO Abdur Rahim Khondokar released him from his duty. In ward No 5, in Polling Station No 92 & 93 the vote casting was slow due to water logging. In most of the Polling Stations female agents of female councilors were absent.

JANIPOP is of the opinion that E-voting is faster, easier, and transparent compared to the existing procedure. Voters such as Aroti Shikdar, age 58, mentioned that “If people can understand then it’s really easy, but you need computer literacy”! Younger brother of councilor Lokman mentioned that “It’s is easy for literate people but it would have been better if the total count of the mayors & councilors were displayed. He also added that the button needs to be larger to make it handy for the elderly”. JANIPOP thinks that more training is required and this system must be gradually introduced to get the full benefit of the system. Technical Assistants were very effective in explaining the voters the procedure but they could have been more successful if the voters came in large numbers in the mock sessions. Posters were also displayed on how to vote which was good but the language needs to be much simpler.

It is encouraging to see a female RO for the first time and in future BEC must train more female officers

The colored arm badges for the polling agents were good. It was visible and very useful for the illiterate voters to identify the agents.

The overall turnout was low compared to August 2008 City Corporation Elections throughout the country. The environment was peaceful, the role of the RO and her colleagues were praiseworthy. Finally JANIPOP is of the opinion that the CCC election 2010 was impartial and free.

I thank the media for being so cooperative throughout the day as they kept the voters updated and informed.

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