Accurate and detailed recording of observations is crucial for the success of the long-term election observation mission. All observations were recorded by observers in their journals or on relevant observation forms. Whenever possible, observers recorded the date, time and location of specific observations, and tried to get the names of any individual relevant to the observation. In case of any exceptional scenario, they observed it very closely in order to collect information relevant to the observation process.


All observers were responsible for keeping a daily journal of observation.  In this journal, the observers recorded all the details of the observations, recording as much detail as possible including names and titles of the people interviewed, precise locations, dates and times. The entries from the journal were later used to support reports written by the observers, team leaders, and divisional secretaries, and also to write narrative summaries of observations.


JANIPOP relied on its official observation forms for information on the election process, and for writing interim and the final observation reports.  Standardized observation forms allowed the JANIPOP teams to compare information across regions, identify trends, and ensured that all observation teams focused on the same aspects of the election.  LTOs tried to make sure that they regularly submitted observation forms, and that the forms were submitted on time, as instructed by the divisional coordinator for the convenience of the JANIPOP HQ compilation process.

16. Major Findings of JANIPOP

Changing Trends of Campaign

For the first time in the history of Bangladesh, the BEC regulations concerning behavior of candidates and their supporters set standard and precedence and put BEC in the position of guardian and arbiter in election matters. It also manifested that within right environment and support from stakeholders, BEC may not act as a “paper tiger” but flex its muscles and have strong “teeth to bite”. Candidates, political parties and activists of different parties largely followed the BEC guidelines concerning electoral campaign behavior. As a result of the BEC’s new regulations, the long-standing practices of wall writing, use of posters on wall, electoral show-up by using motorcade, indiscriminate use of loudspeakers and electoral donations to social institutions during campaign have dropped dramatically. Black and white posters were used instead of colored ones which reduced the election expenses of Candidates to certain extent. However, incidences of using posters inside tea stall, on trees, electric polls and on rickshaws, auto-rickshaws and other vehicles were recorded in a number of polling centers. Most of the posters were black and white. However, there was also use of colored posters some places. Candidates mainly promised that if they would be elected they would construct roads, culverts, bridges and work for the development and welfare of respective constituency. Many also promised grant for elderly people and free education for girls up to graduation level.

The observers reported incidences of violation of electoral laws especially in terms of using campaign time and campaign equipments such as use of loudspeakers, motorized vehicles and entertaining voters with snacks to drum up support for their respective candidate. Use of cash money in buying votes also took place in few exceptional cases which the LTOs brought under their close observation. Candidates were, to much extent cautious while carrying out such campaign practices in the context of newly enacted electoral laws put into practice by BEC and also due to the presence of the observers deployed by different election observation bodies including JANIPOP. BEC introduced “no vote” did not have much impact on election results of the 9th Parliamentary Election. For example, in Rajshahi-5 Constituency, the number of recorded “no vote” was 699.

During the campaign period, there were unconventional methods used by certain Candidates and their supporters to gear up support in favor of them. In Chittagong-8 Constituency, Grand Alliance Candidate Nurul Islam BSc used morning walk as a new method of motivating voters to vote for him. It was verified by JANIPOP LTOs that the walk was induced by campaign need within the context of limited time-frame for campaign. The Four Party Alliance Candidate for Chittagong-13 Constituency Mizanul Huq Chowdhury invented a new method to motivate voters to vote for him using religious card. He himself did not use any communal speech but deployed the Madrassa teachers of the locality to campaign for him. The Huzurs (Madrassa teachers) campaigned on his behalf and told that he is the “Candidate of Islam” and others are “Candidates of infidels”.

On Election Day, there were clandestine efforts by candidates’ loyalists to influence voters by providing those snacks and arranging rickshaw and other transportation to and from polling stations. In Sylhet-4, party activists belonging to BNP arranged special prayer at a mosque followed by distribution of sweet dishes for the attendants. In Chittagong-13, ripe bananas were seen along with an electoral rally at Dohajari in support of Grand Alliance Candidate Engineer Afsar Uddin. However, the queer modes of campaign and violation of electoral campaign laws manifest long-standing practices of “laissez-faire and free style campaign” during previous elections and the larger scenario of political culture of Bangladesh. Deployment of Army as a striking force played a key role in maintaining law and order situation surrounding polling stations. Many defeated candidates alleged irregularities at polling centers in the Election Day. However, one defeated Candidate of Four Party Alliance from Dhaka appreciated the role of BEC in conducting a good national poll and suggested on how to improve the election process further. He said, “Election under Emergency Rule was no barrier to a reasonably fair election”.

Campaign Finance

From JANIPOP LTOs observations and estimates from different constituencies, we reached to the conclusion that candidates spent much more than the campaign finance limit set by BEC. This raises the question of how to rationalize campaign finance limit without compromising with big business and grey money. The important observations in the field of campaign finance by our LTOs are as follows:

JANIPOP LTOs from Rajshahi-5 counted that the weekly campaign cost of the week 21/12-27/12/2008 of Candidate from Grand Alliance, Four Party Alliance and Tariqat Federation was BDT 958000.00, 738000.00 and 235000.00 respectively. In Rajshahi-2 Constituency, the three main Candidates spent BDT 305400.00, 219800.00 and 129000.00 respectively on 23rd December alone as estimated by JANIPOP LTOs deployed in the constituency. This was more or less a representative sample of campaign cost per day in the final days before the Election Day.

In South Surma’s Lalabazar area of Sylhet-3, the BNP Candidate Shafi Ahmed Chowdhury’s meeting area covered erection of a decorated gate and 13 loudspeakers. The supporters and activists came to the meeting venue by 40-50 buses. An estimated cost of the meeting is around BDT 100000.00.

In the same manner, the Balaganj’s Dayamir area of BNP Candidate of Sylhet-2 Constituency Ilyas Ali arranged 14 loudspeakers for a meeting and used around 100 buses to bring supporters to the meeting venue. An estimated cost of the meeting was around BDT 150000.00. Different Candidates of Sylhet region greeted their electorate through newspaper advertisements ahead of Eid-ul-Adha, one of the two largest Muslim religious festivals. It was estimated that each of the advertisements cost around BDT 10000.00. Many candidates distributed meats of their sacrificial animals of Eid among the poor voters to gear up their support in their favor.

In Chittagong-10 Constituency, Grand Alliance Candidate MA Latif was seen distributing money among the people in general in order to secure their support and votes.

In Dhaka-9 Constituency, on 12th January LTOs observed that at supporters of Grand Alliance Candidate Saber Hossain Chowdhury gathered at Madartek Abdul Aziz School and College with 100 banners, 50 election symbols of boat and around 200 festoons. The Alliance partner Jatiya Party activists joined the same gathering with similar number of banners, election symbols and festoons. They brought out a joint election showdown with 50-60 motorbikes. It was estimated by JANIPOP LTOs that the total cost the campaign by the particular Candidate on the day was around BDT 300,000.00-500,000.00. It was known from some of the supporters that the participants of the meeting got free snacks and BDT 100.00-200.00 each.

AL Candidate Amir Hossain Amu from Barisal made hundreds of posters much larger than allowed by BEC. Each of the posters was estimated at a value of BDT 300.00-400.00. Moreover, he also entertained around 500.00-600.00 people apparently under his financial assistance. When contacted by JANIPOP LTOs, he denied the allegation and told that it was sponsored by a non-resident Bengali, who was a well wisher of him.

In Faridpur-3 Constituency, Four Party Alliance partner Bangladesh Jaamat-e-Islami Candidate Ali Ahsan Muzahid arranged feast for poor people on Eid Day, one of the two largest Islamic religious festivals in Bangladesh. He slaughtered seven bulls and 2 goats for the feast.

In a public meeting of Mahmudnagar Eidgah Field of Sonakanda Union of Narayangonj-5 Constituency of around 5000-6000 people, Grand Alliance Candidate Nasim Osman hired people with BDT 100.00 per head for the meeting of 16th December. Local grocery store worker Parul Begum and tailor shop owner Saleha Begum of Sonakanda Union of Bandar Upazila confirmed the earlier information. JANIPOP LTOs came to know from 4 tea stalls near the meeting that around 400-500 workers took tea and cigarettes without paying for them. They told that Candidate Nasim Osman’s people would for them. It was  roughly counted by our LTOs that the Mahmudnagar meeting may have cost BDT 200,000.00.

Drastic Reduction of Fake Voting

The BEC efficiently trained and stationed necessary human resources for conducting election. When it was necessary, BEC deployed extra human resources in the field. The introduction of photographed national ID card and strictly verified new voters’ list have dramatically reduced the casting of false vote/fraud in casting vote. The Voters’ Lists were hanged in Pourashava, Union Parishad and Ward offices before the election. There was little or no objection from notables concerning voter lists. The election officials in general had proper knowledge on their roles and responsibilities in election and Code of Conduct. Afsar Mia, a small businessman from Bhandarcoat Union of Botiaghata Upazila of the Constituency Khulna-1 expressed his satisfaction with the process of national election. He said, “The environment of voting was very good. There was no scope for fake voting because of introduction of photographed voter ID for the first time. Because of the deployment of Army in the Constituencies, there was no incidence of violence. There should also be deployment of Army in the Upazila election to ensure violence-free environment.” A betel leaf seller Khalek Bepari of Kedarnath Road of Daulatpur of Khulna-3 Constituency opined, “This election was totally free and fair. There was no irregularity as far as I know. I voted in the Police Feri Center. I have never seen so fair and clean voting in last 75 years.”

However, there were minor errors in voters’ information such as mistakes in name, address, parents’, husband’s name etc in National ID Cards. Sabina Sultana, a voter of No. 7 Camp, Baitul Falah Turn Around, Biharipara, Khalishpur of Khulna-3 Constituency alleged that her name was wrongly put in Voter ID Card as Sabia Sultana. Her Date of Birth was wrongly put as 11th September 1987 instead of original 5th March 1989 (ID no. 4794512160655). In the same Constituency, Shirin Bhanu (Husband: Md. Afsar) of Teligati village alleged that in the voter ID card, her date of birth is put as 3rd November 1970 instead of 3rd of November 1958. There were a number of cases of false votes as noted by JANIPOP observers in its observed constituencies. But the total number of such cases was very negligible. Under Faridpur 3, in the Sajeda Kabir Government Primary School Center, Fatema, a female voter (ID No. 2924707158592) alleged that her vote had already been cast by someone else. In Magura-2 Constituency, voter Nazma Begum (voter No. 0274, wife of Ziaur Rahman) went to polling center at Gopalnagar Secondary School and found that somebody else cast her vote. Later she challenged the vote, gave security money of BDT 100 and cast her vote. At Amura Government Primary School of Sylhet-6 Constituency, a voter could not vote even though he had his National ID. His name was not seen in the voter list. The name of the voter is Cherag Ali (ID no. 9113813935381, date of birth 02 Novemver 1940, cell number 01711580127).

At center no. 67, 69, 70 and 72 under Narayangonj-5, there was a number of cases where voters had ID cards but could not cast their votes as their names did not appear in the voters’ lists. In Chittagong-8 Constituency, many voters could not cast their votes because of errors in voters’ lists and absence of accurate voters’ list. Also there was no guidance from any about what to do in such cases if names do not appear in the voters’ list properly. In Dhaka-13 Constituency, some voters were running to and fro. They complained that they could not cast their votes even though they possessed the National ID Card. In Jessore-4 a voter named Harichandra Sarker (01720 346282) complained that there was no curtain between the polling booth and rest of the room which manifested the center as risky one.

In Narshingdi-2 Constituency it was found that there were more than 20 voters who registered themselves in two constituencies. The District Election Office informed that there would be legal steps against those who involved in the incidence. JANIPOP observed that there are little or no steps taken so that expatriate Bangladeshis and prison population could use their voting rights.

BEC Preparation and sticking to rules

In Khulna-2 Constituency, candidature of 4 candidates was cancelled out of 11 because of loan defaulting. The candidates whose nomination papers were cancelled are Kazi Faruk Ahmed, Seikh Asaduzzaman, Laila Rahman and Seikh Sirajul Islam. Law and order situation in almost all the constituencies was observed normal and conducive to holding elections. The law enforcing agencies were keeping cautious eyes on the movement of everything. Local offices of BEC got the translucent ballot boxes in time as was observed by JANIPOP observers. JANIPOP LTOs reported that local offices of BEC had already completed imparted training to the election officials who had been assigned to work for BEC on the Election Day.

Voting started at 8:00 am in most of the polling stations and continued till 4:00 pm. Voters were in male and female queues long before the scheduled time in majority of the polling stations in JANIPOP observed Constituencies. In general, voters were enthusiastic about practicing their voting rights and were in peaceful queue to cast their votes. JANIPOP observers observed a remarkable turn up of first time and women voters in polling stations. The elderly voters also cast their votes with enthusiasm. Ethnic and religious minority voters felt confident and secure from intimidation and violence in casting their votes. Deployment of Army as a striking force and determination of BEC to conduct a good election can be credited for confidence of the minority voters in casting their voting rights.

In general there was adequate supply of election materials for the purpose of election in polling centers. Polling officials started voting by showing empty ballot boxes to the polling agents and observers. In general, the polling started at 8:00 am and finished at 4:00 pm. However, there were few exceptions due to special circumstances at some of the polling centers. At Gonobiddaniketon Center under Narayangonj-5 constituency, polling started at 8.30 am due to absence of all polling agents except one. At Gojomohon Government School Center under Dhaka – 12 constituency, vote started at 9 .00 am. There was considerable delay in casting votes for some voters due to mismatch of the names of voters in voters’ list in national ID. This caused long delays and inconvenience in casting votes for some voters. In Khulna-4 Constituency, the candidature of Mostafa Rashidi Dara and Muktar Hossain was cancelled due to unavailability of mandatory information. In Chittagong-9 Constituency, JANIPOP LTOs observed that it was difficult for women Ansars to maintain law and order in a women booth in the Election Day. There were a number of women voters who defied the women Ansars and tried to create anarchy.

Accreditation of Observers

Government and Election Commission officials at central and field levels in general extended their cooperation towards JANIPOP teams. Md. Mohsin Ali, the Divisional Deputy Election Commissioner of Khulna appreciated the activities of JANIPOP and promised cooperation in their election-related duties. However, due to issuing Observer Cards at the last moment prior to Election Day, there were inconveniences in some of the constituencies. JANIPOP Headquarters faced workloads due to the fact that the updated official lists and documents did not reach to the Returning Officers in some of the districts.

Minority Voters

In the inaccessible hilly areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts region, Election Commission deployed election officials, workers and security forces three days before the Election Day by helicopters. Presiding Officers from Bandarban Hill Tracts commented that due to differences of language between security forces and tribal voters, there was difficulty and misunderstanding in communication between them. It took more time to gather election results from inaccessible areas. To solve the problem, authorities used helicopters to bring results from there.

Mohadev Kormokar (65) of Reiligate, Doulatpur of Khulna-3 Constituency expressed his satisfaction with the process of election on 7th January 2009. He said, “There was no pressure from any political quarter to vote for them this time. There was no obstacle for us to vote for our choice of candidate. The election was free and fair. There was no post-election violence this time.”

Joyonto Kumar of Kamalapur, Jamdia Union of Jessore-4 said, “There was no problem for us in this election because of administrative measures was conducive to fair election. There were no hoodlums out there to force or hinder our choice. That’s why there was no problem for us to cast our votes.”

JANIPOP LTOs visited Dolkhola Bazar area of Ward no. 27 of Khulna-2 Constituency and talked to religious minority voters of the area. Voters Poritosh, Kobita Rani, Karthink, Horipad Halder, Nitin Gosh and Raha told LTOs that the environment of the Voting Day was conducive to free and fair election. They also told that there were no hoodlums around the polling center on the Election Day.

Ethnic Bihari Shahjada Ali (50), a petty businessman from Notun Rastar Mor of Khulna-3 Constituency expressed his satisfaction on the environment of election. He said, “As Biharis we did not face any problem before or after election from any political quarter. We cast our votes according to our choice. There was no post-election violence in our area”.

Dilip Kumar Shil, a barber of Jononi Hair Cutting Saloon from Gollamari Machghat of Botiaghata Upazila of Khulna-1 Constituency said, “Election this time was fairer than any other time I have ever seen. There was no group or individual barrier in casting votes of the minority voters.”

The sexual minority group such as hermaphrodites (locally known as Hijras) also did not feel difficulties in casting their votes.  JANIPOP LTOs met two hermaphrodites Akoli and Monira at Pankhali Ferry Ghat in Khulna-1 (residents of Sachibunia) Constituency on 6th January at the last week of their observation. They said, “We did not face any hurdle in casting our votes on Election Day. We did not stand in queue like other voters but cast our vote before everyone right after the opening of polling center.” However, they voiced their dissatisfaction that no Candidate went to visit Hizrapalli near Doshgetkhal for their election campaign. They said, “We (the Hijras) are citizens of this country but government failed to take steps to generate employment for us.”

JANIPOP LTOs from Chittagong-9 reported that Hindu voters and Stranded Pakistanis (Biharis now citizens of Bangladesh) were threatened with dire consequences if they turned up at the polling centers on the Election Day. At Maigatha village of Barma Union of Chandnaish Upazila in Chittagong-13 Constituency, the house of a minority voter Noni Gopal was locked and torched by unidentified miscreants on early hours of 22nd December. By hearing cries of Gopal and his family members, his brothers came and broke locks and rescued them. However, it could not be confirmed whether the torching was as a result of personal feud or electoral violence. In relation to this matter, a case was lodged in Chandnaish police station by Noni Gopal’s brother Porimol Dafadar (Case No. 9 of 22/12/2008). There was a sense of unease among people because of relative sense of insecurity felt by a section of voters at koilakhali Nongovernmental Primary Schhol Center. Harish Chandra Sarkar of village Doara and Raipur Union (cell number: 01720346282) said, “I feel afraid to go to the Koilakhali polling centre”.

Disabled and Elderly Voters

JANIPOP observers noticed that there was friendliness and cooperation to disabled, pregnant and elderly voters on part of polling officials. The marginalized groups in general were assisted to cast their votes without standing in long queue. However, there was insufficient or no logistical support for them to cast their votes.

Pre and post-election violence

In Moulvavibazar-4 Constituency, Awami League Candidate Abdus Shahid complained to JANIPOP LTOs that the BNP Candidate Muzibur Rahman Chowdhury distributed cash among the tea plantation voters. Besides, in Chittagong-10 Constituency, Grand Alliance Candidate MA Latif was seen giving money to the people in general in order to secure their support and votes. In Magura-2 Constituency, a tense situation erupted surrounding the tearing of ‘Sheaf of Paddy’ poster between the activists of Four Party Alliance Candidate Nitai Roy Chowdhury and opponents. When reported, the Police Officer from the nearest Police Station visited the spot and calmed down the situation. In Cox’s Bazar-3, BNP backed candidate’s supporters threw sand, hot water, and stones on the electoral rallies of the Independent Candidate and Grand Alliance Candidate.

During the pre-election campaign period and Election Day, JANIPOP observed peaceful and orderly environment in the election process except for some stray incidences. We can note that part of pre-election campaign period was under Emergency Rule and later it was fully withdrawn. Soon after the withdrawal of Emergency Rule, Army as a striking force was deployed in different constituencies. This may have impact on the lower level of violence during campaign period and Election Day. After the 9th Parliamentary Election took place on December 29, it was observed by JANIPOP LTOs that the rate of encroachment, violence and acts of vengeance went up across the country, which was committed allegedly by the workers, supporters and the grassroots level leaders of the winning party. However, they are manifestation of the country’s long-standing political culture and are not directly linked to the reputation of BEC.

In Natore-2, JANIPOP LTOs observed that rival candidates’ workers and supporters were trying to disrupt the electoral activities of each other. There was also report of burning of electoral camp of Grand Alliance Candidate there at Mallikhati Bosepara.

At Paikpara Ward of Narayangonj-5 under Dhaka Division, Grand Alliance supporter Md. Shahid forcibly tried to hire Four Party Alliance supporter Selina Begum to work in his favor in exchange of BDT 200 a day, which she refused to accept. This enraged him and he beat her up mercilessly so that she got unconscious. She was taken to Victoria General Hospital and later to Rizia General Hospital where she was undergoing treatment. It is noteworthy that Selina is a tenant of Shahid’s house. Both Shahid’s wife and Selina’s daughter confessed that Shahid threatened the day before the incidence that if she would work for Paddy Sheaf instead of Plough, she will have to leave his house.

In the same constituency, AL supporters forcefully took away fishes from the fish farm of Narayangonj Sadr Ward no. 3 BNP leader on 4th January. At Bhanga Union of Narshingdi-2 Constituency, a number of local hoodlums led by Awami League worker Ripon attacked the business farm of BNP supporter and businessman Kafil Uddin and destroyed around 500 eggs on 1st of January.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: