Shakhawat Liton and Pankaj Karmakar
Amid lowest-ever participation of candidates, at least 128 of them are set to be elected unopposed at the January 5 parliamentary election, breaking the record of the farcical polls on February 15, 1996.
Forty-nine candidates nominated by the then ruling BNP were elected uncontested in the February 15 election, boycotted by the Awami League, Jatiya Party, Jamaat-e-Islami and other parties.
The last day of filing nomination papers for the 10th general election was December 2. Till that point, eight candidates found no challengers in their respective constituencies, according to the Election Commission’s list.
The number rose following the cancellation and withdrawal of candidacies.
“The returning officers of the constituencies concerned will declare the candidates elected uncontested tomorrow [today],” a senior EC official told The Daily Star yesterday on condition of anonymity.
The deadline for nomination withdrawal was 5:00pm yesterday.
The EC Secretariat will publish gazettes to announce the official results on completion of the polls. The MPs-elect will take oath within three days of the gazette publication.
The number of unopposed candidates, based on information collected from returning officers in districts as of 11:00pm yesterday, also indicates that around one-third of the nine crore voters need not go to polling stations on January 5.
In four districts — Chandpur, Sariatpur, Madaripur and Gazipur — not a single candidate has got any rival in any seat.
Those who are going to be elected uncontested have mostly been nominated by the ruling Awami League.
They include party stalwarts like Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, AMA Muhith, Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, Syed Ashraful Islam and Obaidul Quader, ex-home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir and controversial AL leader Shamim Osman of Narayanganj.
JP (Manju) chief Anwar Hossain Manju, who became advisor to the prime minister last month, looks set to get elected uncontested from his home district Pirojpur. Even his party leader Nurul Islam Talukder will not have any rival in his constituency of Bogra, a bastion of the main opposition BNP.
Four Jatiya Party leaders, who did not withdraw their nomination papers despite a directive from party chief Ershad, will also be elected unopposed from Mymensingh 5, Bogra-2 and Kurigram 2 and 3.
Of them, AKM Maidul Islam, a sitting lawmaker from Kurigram-3, said he had instructed his aides to submit the application for the withdrawal of his candidacy but somehow they had failed.
About the polls, he said, “I’m not interested in the polls. This is a farcical election and if I take part in it, I will also be reduced to a farce.”
Workers Party leader Fazle Hossain Badsha is also on the list of those being elected without contest from Rajshahi-2.
Backed by the AL, 10 candidates of the Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Tarikat Federation will contest the polls on the AL electoral symbol “boat”. AL chief and prime minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday requested the chief election commissioner to allocate the symbol to her party.
The number of MPs-elect uncontested would have been higher had all candidates nominated by the Ershad-led Jatiya Party withdrawn their candidacies yesterday.
In a competitive election, the possibility of a candidate’s getting elected unopposed is very slim. In polls held in 1986, 1991, 1996 [June], 2001 and 2008, none was elected unchallenged.
Eleven were elected uncontested in each of the 1973 and 1979 polls, 18 in another farcical election held by the Ershad regime in 1988 and 22 in the canceled parliamentary polls slated for January 22, 2007.
Only 651 contenders will take part in the upcoming national election amid a boycott by the opposition. Each of nine other parliamentary polls held since 1973 had more than 1,000 candidates.
The BNP-Jamaat-led 18-party alliance and some other parties will not participate in the January 5 polls. The 18-party combine has all along maintained that it will not contest any election held without a non-party caretaker administration.
Worsening the situation, the Ershad-led Jatiya Party recently announced a boycott, saying the atmosphere for an inclusive election is absent.