Election Observation Report on Chittagong City Corporation Elections, June 2010 Part -2

Presence of Authorized Polling Agents

ANIPOP observers found that there were three categories of polling agents in each both viz. mayoral candidate agents wearing white badges and agents of candidates of female councilors with pink and general councilors with green badges on their arms. The polling agents clipped authorization cards on their dresses. In most of the Polling Stations, female agents of female councilors were absent.

Accessibility
As the Chittagong city is on a hilly area, most of the polling stations were situated either with an upward or downward stairs for the voters. This condition was very risky and vulnerable for the elderly voters. JANIPOP team observed a female aged voter fell from the steps in Government National Primary School at Love Lane Crossing at 10:30 a.m. Moreover, certain polling stations had stair access where wheel chair use was literally impossible.

Electronic Voting

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. Election officials were of the opinion that there was no problem with the new technology. E-Voting is a unique system of voting which saved times of the voters. There was no need counting of casted votes and no risk of cancellation of votes in this system. However, elderly and less educated voters felt uneasiness in this system. In the non E-Voting polling stations, JANIPOP teams observed that voters cast their vote slowly compared to those of Electronic ones.

Voters such as Ms. Aroti Shikdar, age 58 mentioned, “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”.

Electoral Environment

So far there was no serious election violence on Election Day. 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 casted at 9:50 am. In ward 27, polling station No 457, booth No 5 at 12:35 pm Polling Officer Mr. Rafiqueullah was found influencing voters to cast vote in favor of the symbol pineapple. The Presiding Officer concerned Mr. 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.

Party Camps

Party camps were playing volunteer role and assisting not only their own voters, supporters and activists but other voters as well.

nthusiasm

JANIPOP team observed that a huge number of voters were in queue to cast their vote since 8:00 a.m. There were queues consisting of male and female voters reaching up to polling stations. Religious and other minority voters were seen exercising their voting rights with freedom. However, voter turnout was not more than 50% on an average at the end of the elections.

Domestic and International Observers

JANIPOP observers found several local election observation NGOs like Democracy Watch, Brotee, etc. on the Election Day. JANIPOP observers met the team members of UNDP and NDI. JANIPOP Chairman also exchanged views with US Embassy Observation Team.

Intelligence Outfit of Bangladesh Election Commission

The Election Commission deployed at least one official in each ward to work as ‘silent observer’ to monitor the pre election and Election Day situation, and report to the Commission or the Returning Officer or Assistant Returning Officers for taking necessary actions.

Representatives from the Media

JANIPOP observers saw many media personnel covering the election events throughout the Election Day. Some electronic media centers were setup by ATN Bangla News, Bangla Vision, RTV, NTV, Channel I, Ekushey TV, etc. at M A Aziz Stadium.

Post Election Scenario

In the evening on 17th June 2010 ten empty translucent ballot boxes were smashed by unruly mob in front of the temporary election control room of the returning officer situated at M A Aziz Stadium. The electoral authority lodged a general diary with the Jamal Khan Police station with reference to that incident.

After the election, results from different polling stations were coming to the temporary office of the Returning Officer at the Chittagong gymnasium adjacent to the M.A. Aziz stadium. Jesmin Tuli, Deputy Secretary and the Returning Officer, started announcing the incoming results of two mayoral candidates Mr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury’s symbol ‘Ship’ and Mr. Monjur Alam’s symbol ‘pineapple’ including results of candidates for ward commissioners to the respective agents, election observers and the media. This time, the situation was quiet and peaceful; the security arrangement was also adequate. Results of e-voting stations and polling stations of mid-town areas were coming earliest. In these polling stations, Mohiuddin Chowdhury’s symbol ‘Ship’ was ahead of the other candidate. However, the results coming later from the 673 polling stations showed that the symbol ‘Pineapple’ became winning with a big margin. At 10:00 P.M. the Returning Officer Jesmin Tuli and the election agent of the symbol ‘Pineapple’ Amir Khoshru Mahmud Chowdhury debated over the process of announcing the election results. Jesmin Tuli was of the opinion that the incoming results of 673 polling stations should be announced one by one or ten stations at a time. Amir Khoshru Mahmud Chowdhury, on the other hand, viewed that the results ought to be announced one by one and ten stations in total. When Tuli disagreed to accept his idea, Mr. Chowdhury accused the election commission of a media coup against his candidate in front of the BNP-Jammat activists waiting adjacent to the outer stadium and Apollo Shopping Center. No sooner had he delivered his speech, the agitated mob started picketing on police and RAB and smashed some ballot boxes coming from the polling stations. The numbers of two smashed ballot boxes were 1077755 and 2077759 as observed by JANIPOP team. In this incident, one police personnel was injured on his head. Meanwhile, Mr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury with some of his supporters also turned up in front of the gymnasium.                               Later, the Returning Officer controlled the entire situation by seeking military forces’ intervention.

Special Feature of the Elections

For the first time in Bangladesh, a female Returning Officer was appointed to conduct an important election of 16 lakh 88 thousand and 754 voters of which 8 lakh 73 thousand and 206 were male and 8 lakh 15 thousand 548 were female. It is encouraging to see a female RO for the first time in an election of such a magnitude.

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

JANIPOP is of the opinion that E-voting is faster, easier, and transparent compared to the old fashioned ones. JANIPOP thinks that more training is required for E-voting and this system should be gradually introduced to get the full benefit of the system.

Technical Assistants to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) 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 organized before the Election Day.

Posters were also displayed on how to vote which was good but the language needs to be much simpler.

The overall turnout was low compared to August 2008 City Corporation Elections throughout the country.

The overall election environment was peaceful and the role of the RO and her colleagues were praise worthy.

The electorate of the city corporation was very cooperative in maintaining the election environment.

The contending candidates followed the electoral code of conduct as much as possible.

Conclusions

Finally, JANIPOP is of the opinion that the CCC election 2010 was held in a free, fair and impartial manner. The BEC has carried out a commendable job. Therefore, the CCC election can be termed as a model one which can be replicated throughout the country in the years to come, no matter, whether the election concerned is local level one or national parliamentary one.

Recommendations

-          Mobile court is very effective and it can be exercised strictly in national and local elections in pre election phase.

-          The Returning Officer enjoyed full freedom in exercising her authority with reference to the CCC elections. It was a praiseworthy step on the part of BEC and should be continued in future elections.

-          Following international observation standards, mobile observation method should be given priority in election monitoring with reference to all types of elections in Bangladesh.

-          Deployment of army in elections should be discouraged. Instead, a very special electoral police force can be formed for the maintenance of law and order during elections of such kind.

-          Media played a vital role in this election in maintaining the transparency of election process particularly of post election phase when the Returning Officer was announcing the election results. Therefore, Media should be allowed to forecast news freely.

-          Electronic voting should be replicated gradually.

-          BEC should train more female officers to conduct election of such kind.

-          The method of colored arm badges for the polling agents should be replicated.

-          Nomination of candidates in local government elections including city corporation elections should be based on political party lines.

Polling stations should be disabled and senior citizen friendly.

Annexure-1

List of Observers

  1. Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, Founder & Chairman, JANIPOP
  2. Advocate Itrat Amin, Founder Member & National Trainer, JANIPOP
  3. Dr. A.K.M. Reazul Hassan, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  4. Dr. Mojibur Rahman Doftori, National Coordinator, JANIPOP
  5. LTO Md. Parvez Miyan, Member of the Rapid Response Team, JANIPOP
  6. Md. Showkat Ali, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  7. Ms. Halima Haq, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  8. LTO Ms. Shaila Alam, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  9. Advocate Md. Abdul Kader, Gazipur District Coordinator, JANIPOP

10. Mia Md. Iftekhar Hassan, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

11. LTO M.A. Sekandar Ali, JANIPOP

12. LTO Advocate Mohammad Selim Mia

13. LTO Shaheen Sultana, JANIPOP

14. Md. Iqbal Hossain, Joypurhat District Coordinator, JANIPOP

15. Mohammad Shahidul Islam, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

16. Md. Yasin Mia, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

17. Md. Zakir Hossain, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

18. LTO Md. Hamidur Rahman, JANIPOP

19. Kamruzzaman Shamim, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

20. Shamsul Arefin, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

21. Mohammad Mohiuddin, Chittagong Divisional Coordinator, JANIPOP

22. LTO Ali Monsur Khan, JANIPOP

23. LTO Mehedi Hossain, JANIPOP

24. LTO Md. Saddamul Haq Chowdhury, JANIPOP

25. Md. Forhad Monsur Chowdhury, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

26. Mohammad Mosleh Uddin, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

27. LTO Mojibur Rahman, JANIPOP

28. LTO Mohammad Selim Ullah, JANIPOP

29. Md. Anwar Hossain Shikder, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

30. LTO A.T.M. Shahidul Islam, JANIPOP

Annexure-2

Number of Voters by Ward

Ward No. Male Female Total
01 11420 11478 22898
02 38044 40219 78263
03 21597 22019 43616
04 32869 32223 65092
05 27351 26205 53556
06 16888 17660 34548
07 38856 37593 76449
08 39442 35198 74640
09 29109 25636 54745
10 17322 15482 32804
11 26615 26509 53124
12 24794 22776 47570
13 24380 22798 47178
14 22427 19554 41981
15 17136 13968 31104
16 14261 12955 27216
17 21072 23051 44123
18 15207 14677 29884
19 17000 18638 35638
20 10426 9070 19496
21 12879 12351 25230
22 10860 9805 20665
23 11086 9804 20890
24 42648 40702 83350
25 16724 16770 33494
26 17507 15138 32645
27 22038 20566 42604
28 18723 16344 35067
29 14443 12486 26929
30 17180 15378 32558
31 10728 3994 14722
32 9926 5886 15812
33 9727 8552 18279
34 10859 10649 21508
35 12026 6499 18525
36 17452 13178 30630
37 13633 11982 25615
38 41473 43053 84526
39 60006 61913 121919
40 22239 20627 42866
41 14833 12162 26995
Total= 873206 815548 1688754

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