NINTH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION DECEMBER 29, 2008 PART :1

NINTH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

OF BANGLADESH 2008

OBSERVATION REPORT BY JANIPOP

DECEMBER 7, 2008- JANUARY 10, 2009

NINTH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION OF BANGLADESH 2008

OBSERVATION REPORT BY JANIPOP

REPORTING TEAM

Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, Chairman, JANIPOP

Dr. Mojibur Rahman, National Coordinator JANIPOP

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

JANIPOP would like to express its gratitude to those who have extended their generous and helping hands in the Ninth Parliamentary Election Observation Project of JANIPOP.

First of all, JANIPOP is delighted to take the opportunity of thanking the Bangladesh Election Commission for its cooperation extended to us regarding accreditation of observers for the 9th Parliamentary Election 2008. Special thanks go to Commission officials who were proactive and extended their support for us and other election observation bodies going extra miles than official requirements. This was significant for us in terms of preparation and deployment of observers in the field.

Secondly, JANIPOP is pleased to express its heart-felt thanks to Washington based election monitoring organization International Republican Institute (IRI) for its logistical support which was crucial for JANIPOP’s success in running actual observation mission in the Ninth Parliamentary Election held on December 29, 2008. JANIPOP would also like to thank former Long Term Observers (LTOs) of JANIPOP, who did the same job earlier and imbued with utmost experience, shared with the newly recruited LTOs and Short Term Observers (STOs) in the training sessions organized for the observers.

We would like to thank Prof. Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah for his guidance in organizing this report. Last but not the least, it is also a great pleasure to mention the roles of the JANIPOP staffs that worked tirelessly with JANIPOP spirit round the clock and made it a grand success. We would like to thank all the Six Divisional Coordinators and Divisional Secretaries for their efforts in providing divisional reports to JANIPOP HQ in time. Special thanks go to Dhaka Divisional Secretary Farhana Ahmed, JANIPOP HQ Secretary-2 Abida Sultana, JANIPOP Program Associate Anwarul Kadir and Interns Halima Khatun, Dutee and Shabnam for their role in assisting the reporting team. We appreciate all our observers for their dedicated roles and responsibilities in carrying out their respective tasks for the greater interest of JANIPOP and Bangladeshi democracy, for which they sometimes had to curtail their personal deals.

TABLE OF CONTENT

SL No. Topics Page No.
1 Background of JANIPOP in election observation 5
2 The context of 9th Parliamentary Election 6
3 JANIPOP’s relationship with the Bangladesh Election Commission 8
4 JANIPOP observation methodology 8
5 Selection process of JANIPOP observers 9
6 Training of the observers 9
7 Roles and responsibilities of JANIPOP observers 10
8 JANIPOP observation teams 13
9 International standard of JANIPOP observation 14
10 JANIPOP’s area of observation focus 14
11 Information flow 15
12 Reporting 16
13 Keeping a journal 16
14 JANIPOP observation report forms 16
15 Major findings of JANIPOP 16
16 Changing trends of election campaign 16
17 Campaign finance 17
18 Drastic reduction of fake voting 19
19 BEC preparation and sticking to rules 20
20 Accreditation of observers 21
21 Minority voters 21
22 Disabled and elderly voters 22
23 Pre and post-election violence 25
24 Violation of Codes of Conduct 29
25 Some positive changes 29
26 Challenges in election observation process
27 JANIPOP recommendations
28 JANIPOP’s policy lessons for Bangladesh and rest of the world
29

ANNEXES

  1. Code of Ethics for JANIPOP Short-Term Observers/Long-Term Observers
  1. JANIPOP reporting forms
  1. Observation photographs
  1. JANIPOP in press
  1. List of LTOs
  1. List of STOs

1. BACKGROUND OF JANIPOP IN ELECTION OBSERVATION

JANIPOP stands for Jatiya Nirbachon Parjabekkhon Parishad, in English National Election Observation Council – NEOC. JANIPOP was launched on 30th July, 1995 through a press conference in the National Press Club in Dhaka convened by Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah. Since its birth it reached at its 13th year of election monitoring.

JANIPOP has a long history of election observation both domestically and internationally. It observed 7th Parliamentary, 6th Union Parishad, City Corporation, Municipal, 8th Parliamentary and 7th Union Parishad Elections. In 2004 and 2005, JANIPOP observed three consecutive Bi-Elections namely Munshiganj-1, Dhaka-10, Gazipur-2 and Chittagong City Corporation elections on a Long-Term basis.

Internationally, JANIPOP observed elections in Pakistan in 1997 and 2008, in the UK in 1997 and 1998, Pre-Congress Elections situation in the USA in 1998, Pre-Referendum scenario in Denmark in 2000, 12th Parliamentary Elections in Sri Lanka in 2001 and Legislative Council Elections in Hong Kong in September 2004. At the invitation of ANFREL, JANIPOP deployed an LTO to observe the Central Assembly Elections held in Nepal on 10th April 2008.  JANIPOP Chairman assessed the Presidential Election in Egypt as a member of IRI team in 2005. As a participant, JANIPOP Chairman took part in observing Primary Elections in Rochester, New York, USA in 2006. JANIPOP volunteers also observed elections of India and Nepal. Besides these, JANIPOP team visited UN Headquarters in New York in 1996 and attended Other Euro Summit in Amsterdam in 1997. It also participated in the First Global Congress on Democracy held in New Delhi in 1999.

On the eve of the 8th Parliamentary Elections, JANIPOP joined Election Monitoring Working group (EMWG) under the auspices of the Asia Foundation. A joint report was published from EMWG where JANIPOP provided valuable inputs. On the eve of postponed 9th Parliamentary Elections JANIPOP joined Election Working Group (EWG), a coalition of 33 organizations.

JANIPOP has a pool of 4000 national volunteers throughout the country. It also has six divisional coordinators and six divisional secretaries who assist the national secretariat. The pool has been developed very carefully over the years with volunteers who are energetic, impartial, dynamic and sincere. JANIPOP carried out its activities such as training of the observers, development of materials, maintenance of office and equipment, and observation of elections by mobilizing local resources. It has developed a strong team spirit and affinity towards the organization with the help of friends since its inception. This team spirit has helped JANIPOP maintaining its standard in election observation.

JANIPOP observers were also observed the difficulties of the disabled voters at the polling centers and intensely felt that the disabled people can also be involved in observing elections as equal partners. The first disabled observer of the world was deployed by JANIPOP. The disabled observers of JANIPOP kept credible examples of effective election observation at local, national and international levels. JANIPOP also keenly observed that the senior citizens do not enjoy any priority while casting their votes. They have to depend on their family members mostly. Since then JANIPOP lobbied and advocated for ensuring voting rights of the disabled people and the senior citizens.

Besides these, JANIPOP is campaigning for introducing ‘Proportional Representation System’ in place of the existing ‘First Past the Post System’ through mobilizing local resources. JANIPOP prepared campaign materials such as T-shirts of different shade of colors and blue and khaki caps for its observers. In both the items JANIPOP used its logo.

Mobile observation is becoming a costly affair day by day. With reference to ensuring maximum area coverage and quality observation, resource mobilization has emerged as a crucial factor. In order to enhance its organizational capacity, JANIPOP partnered with NIPOM and carried out its election observation activity with external funding. With reference to Long Term election observation, JANIPOP partnered with IRI and with its logistical support JANIPOP succeeded in implementing LTO project in Bangladesh. JANIPOP is committed to its uncompromising position on its quality of work, neutrality, credibility and professionalism since its inception in 1995.

JANIPOP considers that election is a process rather than a one day phenomenon. That’s why it has both long and short-term mobile observers to draw a comprehensive picture of the election in pre-election, election-day and post-election stages. The aim is to support democratic transition and maturity in Bangladesh by working with the key stakeholders in the field of election and good governance. We look forward to see a future when political culture and institutions of the country will be improved so that peaceful and smooth democratic transition and consolidation of democratic culture will be possible.

2. THE CONTEXT OF NINTH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

The Ninth Parliamentary Election was one of the epoch-making one in the electoral history of Bangladesh as it had been postponed due to debated takeover of a caretaker interim government for democratic reform and smooth democratic transition. It was supposed to be held on January 22, 2007 as per the decision and declaration of the then Chief Adviser of Caretaker Government and his Council of Advisers. But with the rising political turmoil and hard-line opposition by some political parties, it was delayed and subsequently the then Chief Adviser of the caretaker government handed over the executive advisory power to the newly chosen Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed as Head of the Care Taker Government. Accordingly a few other advisers were appointed by him to carry out the state activities leading to the holding of a free, fair, neutral and credible parliamentary election.

Though the election was supposed to be held within 90 days after the tenure of the previous government expires according to the Constitution of Bangladesh, it could not be held since the Fakruddin-led Caretaker Taker Government (CTG) started massive reform initiatives with a view to bringing a change in the political culture of Bangladesh and making a level playing field for holding a general election. His government also tried to pave the way for creation of a clean path for people with clean image in the political arena of Bangladesh. However, finally the long walk towards the democratic transition found the light on December 29, 2008 putting a ride on the high hopes and aspirations of the masses.

JANIPOP LTOs covered all the 53 selected constituencies and found that there was enthusiastic mood among the voters prior to the 9th Parliamentary Election held on December 29, 2008 putting an end to two years of democratic transition period. JANIPOP mobile observers have observed the 9th Parliamentary Election 2008 both on Long-term and Short-term basis in the selected constituencies keeping close eyes on the overall national scenario.

During the pre-election (Dec 7 – 28) and election period (Dec 29) the overall environment of the election campaign and actual election was largely peaceful except for few stray incidences of intimidation and violence. There was a remarkable level of participation of women and elderly, religious and ethnic minority voters in casting their votes. There was cooperative attitude of election officials concerning disabled and elderly people. However, there was little or no special arrangement or logistical support for the mentioned groups. The 9th Parliamentary Election featured high voters’ turn up in polling stations in general and first-time and female voters in particular.

However, our mobile LTOs reported the incidences of violence between activists of the winner and the loser candidates after the election results emerged in a number of constituencies. JANIPOP considers the incidences of post-election violence as external to BEC ambit and more to do with political culture and problems of broader nation and democratic institution-building of Bangladesh. JANIPOP believes that the continuous democratic practice and partnership among political parties will help to reduce confrontational politics and incidences of post-election violence. Based on the long and short-term observers’ reports of JANIPOP nationally, JANIPOP is of the opinion that the 9th Parliamentary Election 2008 was held in a free, fair, neutral and peaceful manner across the country. The isolated incidences of irregularities such as late opening of polling stations, campaign on the Election Day, casting fake votes, intimidation and violence represent a negligible part of the whole election process and its outcomes.

3. JANIPOP’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BANGLADESH ELECTION COMMISSION

JANIPOP has developed an excellent working relationship with the Bangladesh Election Commission for long period of time. Since its inception on July 30, 1995 JANIPOP applied to BEC to obtain accreditation cards to observe the seventh parliamentary election held on June 12, 1996. BEC handed accreditation cards to JANIPOP after the submission of the “cleared-up” report of the Home Ministry. JANIPOP fielded some 500 mobile observers in 124 constituencies to observe the seventh parliamentary elections held in June 1996. JANIPOP observed the nation-wide 6th Union Council election. It also took initiative to observe elections of those municipalities that were vacant. In the eighth parliamentary election held on October 1, 2001, JANIPOP fielded 3000 accredited observers in 299 constituencies on the Election Day and later in one Constituency. It also observed all the re-elections and by-elections following the eighth parliamentary elections. It observed the country-wide Union Council elections in 2003 and submitted its final observation report to BEC. In 2004, JANIPOP observed three consecutive By-Elections namely Munshiganj-1, Dhaka-10, and Gazipur-2 on long-term basis. Later on, it observed the City Corporation Elections in 2005 and 2008 on long term basis, accredited by BEC.

JANIPOP also aimed at observing the January 22, 2007 elections in 50 constituencies on long term basis but then suspended the observation mission as the election was stalled with the arrival of the 11th January. During June-October 2007 period, JANIPOP observed the voter registration process in six divisions. In the August 4, 2008 City Corporation elections, JANIPOP observed all the 4 city corporation elections and 3 Municipality elections both on long-term and short-term basis.  JANIPOP has enjoyed all types of assistance and co-operation from the all level BEC officials since its formation. JANIPOP is a consultative partner of BEC as a prominent member of civil society in the field of election observation and democratic reforms.

4. JANIPOP OBSERVATION METHODOLOGY

JANIPOP has been working relentlessly with objectives of ensuring neutral and credible elections in Bangladesh and throughout the world. It considers that ensuring impartial and credible elections will help forming a time-worthy and sustainable government leading to good governance in the country. With this view, JANIPOP has observed elections with reference to the international standards of election observation and with trained observers on the basis of strict neutrality.

To make the observation results more professional, credible, accurate and acceptable, JANIPOP LTOs observe the elections during the pre and post election periods. It also collects evidences and takes interviews of voters.

Applying all these strategies JANIPOP LTOs tried to find exact information, which are shown below:

Direct Observation

Interview

Evidence collection

Accumulation of information

Accurate              Information

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