JANIPOP Observation Report on the Bhola-3 Parliamentary Election, April 2010

JANIPOP Observation Report on the Bhola-3

Parliamentary Election, April 2010

Compilation & Report Drafting by:

Dr. A.K.M. Reazul Hassan

National Volunteer, JANIPOP

Itrat Amin Founder Member & National Volunteer

JANIPOP

Md. Parvez Miyan

Long Term Observer, JANIPOP

A.K.M. Salah Uddin

Dhaka Divisional Coordinator, JANIPOP

Md. Sahidul Huq

International Long Term Observer, JANIPOP

Edited By:

Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah

Founder & Chairman, JANIPOP

Address:

JANIPOP- Jatiya Nirbachon Parjobekkhon Parishad

(National Election Observation Council)

Lily Arcade (3rd Floor), 74, Laboratory Road

Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh

Phone: 8625771 (Office), 8126172 (Res.)

Mobile: 01711-531652, Fax: 88-02-8143788

E-mail: janipop1@yahoo.com, janipop1995@gmail.com

Web: www.janipop.org

The report is available for study and research at JANIPOP National Secretariat. Interested readers can contact JANIPOP Chair for the availability of hard copy of this report. JANIPOP claims the copyright of all its documents and reports. No part of this report and the above mentioned report can be photocopied, translated or reproduced without the prior permission of JANIPOP.

JANIPOP Election Observation Report on

117 Electoral Constituency Bhola-3

April 24, 2010

Pre Election Scenario

The state of the pre election situation was found tense. Sporadic clashes between the contesting candidates necessitated the deployment of RAB in the area. The demand for deployment of military was raised by the opposition BNP candidate Major (Retired) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed and the Chief Coordinator of the electoral campaign of the party in power AL Mr. Tofael Ahmed in a press conference also expressed his no objection to the cause. However, the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) brushed aside the demand and refrained from deploying army.

JANIPOP is of the opinion that military involvement with the electoral process should be kept minimal as a matter of principle and hats off to BEC for sticking to such policy. In future, civil capacity should be enhanced to tackle electoral security challenges.

Against this backdrop, JANIPOP observed the Bhola-3 Parliamentary Election on 24 April 2010. JANIPOP team started its journey from Dhaka with two mobile teams on 23 April. The mission was led by Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, Founder & Chairman of JANIPOP. Altogether10 mobile observers were deployed. Moreover, JANIPOP local volunteers were there all along and they were providing feedbacks on the pre and post election environment. This mission was sponsored by JANIPOP.

Area Coverage

JANIPOP team covered 4 Unions of Tojumuddin Upazilla and 5 Unions of Lalmohan Upazilla. It also covered Lalmohan Municipality area. Two teams observed 16 polling stations in total (See Annexure page number 9).

The name and number of polling stations observed by JANIPOP under Tojumuddin Upazilla are 63 North Joypur Government Primary School, 67 Fulkuri Registered Primary School, 68 Fazilatunnessa Government Girls School, 69 Chadpur Government High School, 70 Kanchonpur Government Primary School, 77 South Chachra Rahmania Registered Primary School, 79 Badlipur Government Primary School, 80 Panchapoli Secondary School, and 81 Golokpur Government Primary School.

Name and Number of the polling stations observed by JANIPOP under Lalmohan Upazilla are 1 Lalmohan Public Library and adjacent Women’s College , 11 South Chartitia Government Primary School, 14 Dowrihat Secondary School , 17 Dr. Azharuddin Registered Primary School, 35 Haji Solaiman Registered Primary School & South Munshirhowla, 39 Dr. Azharuddin School and College and 44 Gojaria Secondary School.

Highlights of the day

Postponement of election at 9 Polling Stations and AL Stand

In polling station No. 1of the constituency, the election was postponed. JANIPOP Chairman interviewed Mr. Tofael Ahmed MP of AL. He mentioned that he was totally surprised with reference to the entire situation. He mentioned that he had spoken to the PO and the agents present at the polling station. He added that no one mentioned about any incident which can be the cause of the postponement. However, he claimed that the BEC had done it as per the insistence from the BNP candidate.

Press Conference of BNP Candidate

In polling station No. 1 named Lalmohan Public Library and adjacent Women’s College under Lalmohan Municipality JANIPOP observers observed that there was no agent of BNP candidate. At 2:30 pm the observers observed that police were locking down the gate of the centre. Then the Dhaka Divisional Coordinator of JANIPOP rang the RO of the constituency to cross check and enquire about the matter and came to know that under Article 91A of the Representation of People’s Order (RPO) the polling station had been closed. The Returning Officer (RO) further mentioned that altogether 9 polling stations elections were closed. The numbers were 1, 17, 20, 36, 37, 38, 52, 54 and 55.

Against 57 polling stations BNP has raised objection. And JANIPOP observers observed the press conference of BNP candidate Major (Retired) Hafiz at 3:30 pm. The press conference was held at the residence of Major (Retired) Hafiz. Amanullah Aman, Acting Election Coordinator and local BNP leaders were present. Hafiz read out from his notes and mentioned that more than 400 activists had been seriously injured. Out of them 100 people were present at the temporary first aid camp set up by the candidate at his residence. He also read out the list of the injured activists and mentioned that out of them 25 female activists were injured. Although JANIPOP found that 25 activists were taking first aid with minor injuries, out of them only two were female. He claimed that he sought help from RAB and Police on several occasions but Law enforcement personnel did not respond to any of his appeal. He claimed that the 9 polling stations which were closed by the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) under article 91A of the RPO had been visited by him along with BEC officials and other media representatives. He further mentioned that as he couldn’t visit the other polling stations so he couldn’t provide the evidence of the unfair means. Regarding Election Day he specifically mentioned about Lalmohan Municipality because that was his hometown. He also mentioned that all the polling stations he visited in most of the booths he did not find the presence of any voters and his agents as well. But he found the agents of the Awami League (AL) candidate gossiping and casting votes in favor of AL. His voters were stopped on the way to the polling stations in most of the cases. At the end he demanded the resignation of the Election Commission although he mentioned that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) had tried to conduct a fair election but failed due to no cooperation on the part of other actors. He demanded the postponement of this election and asked for a fresh poll.

Recommendation – JANIPOP strongly recommends that if a polling station needs to be closed down by the Bangladesh Election Commission as per Article 91A of the RPO, in such events in order to ensure the transparency of the process, a public notice must be displayed at the gate of concerned polling station.

Logistical Arrangement

Multiple Booths were seen in Tojumuddin Upazilla. In few polling stations multiple booths in one single room were arranged. Multiple female booths were also seen. In polling station No. 67- Fhulkuri Registered Primary School, three female booths were arranged in one room. The PO of this station was Md. Shah Alam. One of the security officers mentioned to the JANIPOP female observer that this type of arrangement was not at all suitable. The observers observed that all the Assistant Presiding Officers (3) and Polling Officers (6) were all explaining the process, talking loudly with the voters, while the small room was jam-packed with electoral staffs. As a result no one could hear anyone properly. The situation seemed chaotic.

Recommendation – It is better not to arrange more than one booth in one single room.

In polling station No. 67, toilet and drinking water arrangements were not seen. In a hot summer day voters had to wait for long hours without drinking water. The security officers mentioned to one of the female observers that they had been deployed the day before the Election Day but they found it very difficult to perform their duties because of the lack of proper arrangements.

Recommendation – This sort of polling station must be avoided in future or proper arrangements must be ensured.

Accessibility

In polling station No. 68- Fazilatunnesa Government Girls’ School a disabled voter aged 65 had to go up to the 2nd floor to cast his vote. The name of the PO in this station was Md. Hannan Khan. He is an employee of Agrani Bank, Bhola Branch.

Access to the polling station was adequate but the exit ways of most of the polling stations were very poor. Women had to almost jump to get down from the veranda of the polling stations. JANIPOP female observers had to jump as well. This was not at all a suitable arrangement for the pregnant and elderly voters.

Recommendation – Over and over again JANIPOP in its various election observation reports have suggested that most of the polling stations in Bangladesh are not disable-friendly but till date no progress has been seen on this issue.

Electoral Staff

Two Polling Officers and one Assistant Presiding Officer were seen in every booth. To assist the female voters at least one female Polling Officer was seen in few booths.

Sealing the ballot paper

In polling station No. 67- Fulkuri Registered Primary School, Assistant Presiding Officer Md. Abdul Hannan, Junior Officer Sonali Bank, Tojumuddin Branch mentioned to JANIPOP team that the space to provide the BEC official seal in the counterfoil was inadequate. As a result they provided the seal on the back side of the ballot paper.

Recommendations – (a) Ballot paper should be reformatted and (b) sitting arrangement should be in a logical order.

Polling Agents

In most of the polling stations observed, agents of both the candidates Major (Retired) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed of BNP and Nurunnabi Chowdhury Shaown of AL were present at the beginning. The Assistant Presiding Officer lost much of his time explaining about the role of the agent as the polling agent concerned did not seem that much trained. They seemed disoriented and in polling station No. 81- Golokpur Government Primary School at polling booth number 3 the vote casting started at 8:10 am as the polling agent did not understand what to do.

In polling station No. 70- Kanchanpur Government Primary School at 10:13 am Polling Agent of AL candidate Shaown was found actively involved in folding ballot papers on behalf of the voters.

Recommendation – The training of the polling agents can be provided by capable institutions and organizations such as JANIPOP, NDI or IFES.

Electoral Violence

Incident I

In polling station No. 77- South Chachra Rahmania Registered Primary School under Tojumuddin Upazilla the polling agent of BNP candidate Hafiz claimed that he was injured by the son of AL Union level President at 7:30 am. The name of the polling agent was Mr. Milon.

Incident II

Under Shonapur union of Tojumuddin Upazilla a person named Nunrunnobi, an activist of AL candidate Shaown, was severely beaten by a person named Mannan, who is a supporter of BNP. Nurunnobi Son of Mofijul Majhi, Village: Charpi was injured at the polling station No. 64- Indranaryanpur Qaowmi Madrassa. JANIPOP team met Mr. Nurunnobi on his way back from the polling station.

Injured Nurunnobi – Photo JANIPOP (24 April 2010)
Injured Nurunnobi – Photo JANIPOP (24 April 2010)

Recommendation – Anyone found committing electoral violence should be strictly dealt with. As a part of its affirmative policies BEC can introduce Tolerance Award for the political stakeholders.

Law Enforcement Personnel

Law enforcement personnel were visible throughout the constituency. In most of the polling stations 7 police personnel were deployed. Besides this, Ansar and Village Defense Party (VDP) were very much visible. Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was also deployed throughout the electoral area.

Recommendation – Professionally competent Law Enforcement Personnel should be inducted in different agencies to carry out election related duties.

Law & Order

To maintain the law and order situation Magistrates were seen to be on mobile duty.

Party Camps

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

Recommendation – Apparently the camps seem to be useful as voters come to these camps for getting to know their voter numbers and in some cases how to cast their votes. This practice should be discontinued. Instead of party officials the BEC staff should carry out such job.

Payment Issues

In polling station No. 68- Fazilatunnesa Government Girls’ School, Farid Ahmed, an activist of AL candidate Shaown mentioned that his party had allocated 25 Rickshaws for this polling station for ferrying the voters. It was mentioned that one rickshaw puller will be paid minimum Taka 150 for the entire day for ferrying the voters.

Recommendation – Sanction should be imposed and implemented with reference to such practices.

Posters

Candidates’ list containing their name and symbol were displayed outside most of the polling stations.

Recommendation – This is very useful and this practice should continue. It will be better if the number of display increases as well.

Enthusiasm

The voters came to cast their votes in large numbers and from morning JANIPOP team observed large number of Hindu and Muslim female voters in the queue enthusiastically waiting to cast their votes.

Professionalism of Domestic Observers

In polling station No. 63- North Joypur Government Primary School, domestic observer Jalil was ousted from the polling station by P.O. as he was seen sitting with the polling agents.

Recommendation – Domestic observers need qualitative trainings from their organization and if required they should outsource. The screening process must be taken up very seriously.

International Observers

JANIPOP team met USAID team at polling station No. 70- Kanchanpur Government Primary School.

Recommendation – International Observers should be encouraged to take part in observation mission with reference to by-elections and re-elections as well.

Domestic Observers

JANIPOP team met observers from Coast Trust and BDS.

Recommendation – Domestic observers from the local organizations should not be inducted into the observation team.

Intelligence Outfit of Bangladesh Election Commission

For the first time BEC introduced its own intelligence conduit by deploying at least one staff to keep an eye on the happenings in the ground and to provide feedback. For example, JANIPOP team met one such person named Mr. Habib, Upazilla Election Officer, Jhikargachha, Jessore at 11.43 am at polling station No. 63- North Joypur Government Primary School. He was found providing necessary round the clock feedback to the BEC run control room.

Recommendation – BEC should make it a standard practice i.e. deployment of its in house intelligence arm with reference to future elections as well.

Representatives from the Media

In Bhola 3 constituency representatives from the media were very visible. JANIPOP met the personnel from various electronic media such as BTV, NTV, Channel I, ATN News, Channel 1, Desh TV, BBC Bangla Service and journalists representing printing  media such as The Daily Star, Shomokal and Jugantor. On behalf of JANIPOP, the Chairman was interviewed by RTV and NTV from the field. On behalf of JANIPOP HQ, National Volunteer Dr. A.K.M. Reazul Hassan took part in Channel I arranged program on the election in that evening. Alongside electronic media, Mr. A.K.M. Salah Uddin, Dhaka Divisional Coordinator of JANIPOP was interviewed by the print media such as the Daily Jai Jai Din. Moreover, he was quoted by BTV and interviewed by ATN News.

Voters Choice

Majority of the voters of Tojumuddin and Lalmohan mentioned to the JANIPOP observers that the AL candidate was young and new. They also added that their expectation is more from the AL candidate than that of the BNP one.

Post Election Recommendations

With reference to the post election scenario, JANIPOP is of the opinion that there is no scope for laxity in terms of vigilance. The deployment of RAB should be maintained at least for 30 days after the election. BEC should also continue to keep its intelligence outfit for at least 15 days.

Final Comments

The legacy of pre election conflicting situation persisted and was manifested to some extent on the Election Day. Clashes between supporters of two contesting candidates in different places of the constituency occurred. Some polling agents of BNP candidate remained absconding in different polling stations. In reaction to the postponement of voting in 9 polling stations by the RO, the supporters of AL candidate were also found agitated. Demands for cancellation of election and holding re-election at fag end of the polling hours by the BNP candidate has given the Bhola-3 election a new dimension.

Finally, JANIPOP is of the opinion that absence of candidates from other parties has resulted in direct competition between the two major political parties of the country. Moreover, giving too much priority and attention on Bhola-3 parliamentary election by the top brass of two mainstream political parties might influence the future course of national politics in the days to come.

Annexure

List of Observers

J -1 (Tojumuddin Upazilla)

  1. Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, Founder & Chairman, JANIPOP
  2. Advocate Itrat Amin, Founder Member & National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  3. LTO Md. Parvez Miyan, Member of the Rapid Response Team, JANIPOP
  4. Farhana Ahmed, Dhaka Divisional Secretary, JANIPOP
  5. Mushtaq Ahmed, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

J- 2 (Lalmohan Upazilla)

  1. A.K.M. Salah Uddin, Dhaka Divisional Coordinator, JANIPOP
  2. LTO Md. Sahidul Huq, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  3. LTO Kanij Fatema, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  4. LTO Shaheen Sultana, National Volunteer, JANIPOP
  5. LTO Shaila Alam, National Volunteer, JANIPOP

JANIPOP observed the 9th Parliamentary Election held on 29 December, 2008 on a Long Term basis from December 7, 2008 to January 10, 2009.The observations of LTOs have been documented in a report titled “JANIPOP report on The Long Term Election Observation Mission on 9th Parliamentary Election Bangladesh 2008, December 7, 2008 – January 10, 2009”.

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