151 to be elected uncontested

The fate of more than half of the 300 parliamentary constituencies has already been sealed without a single vote cast, denying one half of 9.19 crore people voting rights in the January 5 polls.
As many as 151 candidates, including 127 nominated by the Awami League, are being elected unopposed in the 10th national polls amid a boycott by the main opposition BNP and some other parties.
According to the Election Commission list available last night, 18 of the uncontested candidates are from Jatiya Party, three from Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, two from Workers Party and one from JP (Manju) Manju. They all are backed by the ruling AL.
A party or an alliance needs at least 151 seats to form a government.
The BNP says the uncontested election of a record number of candidates is “destructive to democracy”. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Nazrul Islam Khan, two standing committee members of the party, yesterday demanded the government refrain from holding the “one-sided” election.
However, Election Commissioner Abu Hafiz yesterday said time to question the credibility of the election was yet to come.
“Once the election is over, we can understand whether the election will be credible,” he told reporters at the EC Secretariat when his attention was drawn to the record number of candidates to be elected uncontested.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said her party had reached a compromise with other parties over the polls-time government. “We’ve withdrawn our candidatures from some seats after liaising with other parties.”
Food Minister Amir Hossain Amu, who is a member of the Awami League advisory council, told BBC Bangla Service that the EC repeatedly had said there was no scope to change the polls schedule.
Responding to a query about talks with the opposition BNP, he said discussions were going on but there were constitutional barriers to a change in the schedule.
On another question, Amu said it would not be ethical to brand the election farcical if a single party boycotted it.
The number of candidates to be elected unopposed has broken the record of the controversial February 15 election in 1996. Held amid a boycott by opposition parties, the election saw 49 ruling BNP candidates declared elected without challenge.
Then in opposition, the Awami League led the boycott alongside waging a street agitation for the introduction of an election-time caretaker government system.
This time, the BNP is leading the election boycott alongside the violent blockade to get the caretaker system restored and resist the January 5 polls. The violence has claimed many lives and paralysed the economy.
The boycott has also resulted in the lowest-ever participation of candidates in the January 5 polls. Only 398 candidates will fight for 149 seats. Each of the nine other parliamentary polls held since 1973 had more than 1,000 candidates.
Also yesterday, the returning officers allocated electoral symbols to the candidates for the remaining constituencies, another step towards the January 5 polls.
In many areas, the returning officers, who are also deputy commissioners of districts, have started declaring lone candidates as winners in different seats.
The EC will publish gazettes announcing the official results on completion of the polls. The MPs-elect will take oath within three days of the gazette publication, EC officials have said.