Single candidate in 154 seats

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In an election of “compromise,” the ruling Awami League looks all set to win two-thirds majority in the January 5 polls amid boycott by the BNP-led opposition alliance and other parties.
With the polling still 19 days away, the AL has already secured victory in 127 of the 154 uncontested seats, according to the Election Commission.
Similarly, HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party has bagged 21 seats, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal three, Workers Party two and Jatiya Party (Manju) one.
So, the ruling party needs just 73 more seats to set a record of winning two-thirds majority twice in a row and thrice since independence.
It appears that almost all the AL candidates contesting from 110 out of the remaining 146 constituencies will come out victorious, as no other candidates are running for those seats.
In those constituencies, candidates from Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal — two components of the AL-led alliance — and a few contenders nominated by Anwar Hossain Manju-led JP will compete with the AL aspirants.
Interestingly, these parties are facing the AL in these constituencies though they need the AL support to win in other seats.
Asked, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad told journalists last night, “The candidates have withdrawn their nominations on their own. We have noting to do here. The election will be held for the contenders who still remain in the race.”
There are allegations that returning officers in different districts forced many candidates to withdraw their candidacies on instructions from government high-ups.
“We have heard that candidates in some constituencies were forced to withdraw their nominations even after the deadline for withdrawal. That is why it took so much time to complete the list of lone candidates, total contesting candidates and others,” a deputy secretary of the EC told The Daily Star, requesting anonymity.
Pressed, the CEC did not make any comment on the allegation, but said, “Information related to nominations came to the commission via email and telephone. It took sometime to compile and finalise those.”
A total of 1,107 nomination papers were filed for the January 5 election. After scrutiny and withdrawal of nominations, 540 candidates are in the race.
Amid widespread criticism over a large number of single candidates, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday said her party had reached a “compromise” over sharing seats with other parties that are in the polls-time government.
The AL, she added, would have conceded a “walkover” to the BNP in some constituencies if it had joined the polls-time cabinet.
In the last parliamentary polls held on December 29, 2008, the AL under Hasina won a landslide victory by defeating its archrival Khaleda Zia-led BNP.
In the country’s first parliamentary election in 1973, the AL under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had won a landslide by bagging almost all the 300 seats. At the time, there was no strong opposition party to challenge the hugely popular AL.
But this time, the already big win has put many senior and mid-level AL leaders in an embarrassing situation. Talking to this newspaper, some of them said they did not feel at all proud of their victory as the election would suffer from credibility.
“It has already tainted the long history of the Awami League,” an AL leader said, requesting anonymity.
The whole saga has boosted the opposition leaders, who say it will be very difficult for the government to portray this election as acceptable to all.
“The government’s evil design has been exposed through this farcical election. Leaders of the opposition parties will be morally boosted by government’s failure in holding a minimum credible election,” said BNP leader Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman.
Mahbub, a standing committee member of the main opposition party, said his party too had secured more than two-thirds majority (278 seats) in the February 15, 1996, election amid boycott by the opposition parties.
“That parliament lasted only 11 days. I believe the parliament that will be formed through the January 5 polls will have a shorter life,” he said.
According to political analysts, Hasina’s landslide victory in the one-sided election will yield no positive results for democracy though it is being held in the name of upholding the constitution.
They note that competitiveness in an election is fundamental in a democracy, but the coming election is in no way participatory.
“It will be very bad for the constitution and democracy,” said parliamentary affairs expert Nizam Ahmed, a professor of public administration at Chittagong University.
Al Masud Hasanuzzaman, a professor of government and politics at Jahangirnagar University, agrees and says parliamentary democracy can never be effective without a vibrant opposition.
“For protecting democracy, the two major electoral alliances should reach a consensus anyhow so that the major parties can take part in the election,” he observed.
Asked about the significance of two-thirds majority, Prof Nizam said: “History shows two-thirds majority in the parliamentary form of government always spells a disaster for the country, as it creates an imbalance in the House.”
In six of the past nine national elections in Bangladesh, the winning parties or the alliances secured two-thirds majority.
Before the BNP under Khaleda’s leadership won such a victory in 1996, the party under its founder General Ziaur Rahman secured two-thirds majority in 1979. Later in the 1988 parliamentary polls, Ershad’s JP secured a similar feat.
The 1979 polls were held under the martial law regime headed by Zia. And the 1988 election was held amid boycott by the AL, BNP and other parties.
In the 2001 election, the BNP-led four-party alliance got two-thirds majority, though the BNP alone could not do so. It got 193 seats.
That election, however, was largely acceptable to all.
EC MEETING
The CEC, the other election commissioners and top EC officials held a series of meetings till 11:00pm yesterday to discuss polls preparation.
The CEC said they discussed allocation of polls symbol and printing of ballot papers.