AL looking for ways to bring voters to booths

Special Correspondent

23 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

The ruling Awami League is looking for ways to increase the presence of voters in polling centres as voters’ turnout in the ongoing Upazila Parishad polls marks a sharp fall in comparison to the elections in the past years.

The party has been facing an embarrassing situation as the voters’ turnout in the polls is decreasing.

Record shows that voters’ turnout in the first-phase of the 5th edition upazila polls was only about 43 percent.

The presence of the voters in the second-phase polls to 116 upazilas was poorer than the first phase. Only 41.25 percent voters cast votes in the second-phase upazila polls.

Grassroots usually take the local government elections as a festival and rush to the polling centres to cast votes for their chosen candidate irrespective of party affiliation. But this time, it appears as an exceptional one. AL insiders said top leaders have been trying to find out ways to bring more voters to the 3rd phase of the upazila polls. Wishing anonymity, a central leader told the daily sun that the party has been analysing ways of increasing the presence of voters from the next phase of local government polls.

“Though we don’t have any role for the poor presence of voters, the party has been facing an embarrassing situation,” the leader said, adding that they have been working to find out a mechanism to bring more voters to the polling booths.

Some AL central leaders said they have been trying to make the elections a competitive one from the very beginning.

Blaming the BNP-led alliance for the poor presence of voters, the ruling party leaders said voters lose their interest as the BNP-led alliance decided to stay away from the election race.

The BNP after its humiliating defeat in the December 30 national polls last year decided not to participate in any elections under the incumbent Election Commission and the government as well.

Some central leaders said what the ruling party will do if a major party refrains from contesting the polls.

“We have tried out best to make the elections a competitive one amid festivity. Our efforts will be on so that the voters throng the polling centres braving all obstacles,” said the leader.

Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda also blamed the BNP-led alliance for its decision on boycott of the ongoing local body polls.

Expressing disappointment over BNP’s decision, the CEC said they always want participation of all political parties for competitive elections.

“Though some major parties are not participating in the polls, the elections will be a competitive one as local leaders are contesting the polls,” he said while inaugurating an election training programme recently.

Local leaders said the presence of voters continues to decrease due to fear of violence as the elections are being contested by the ruling party men.

The aspirants do not want to leave the electoral field unchallenged in a bid to establish absolute authority at the grassroots, resulting in the poor presence of voters, they said.

EC commissioner Mahbub Talukder on Monday said voters are not showing interest due to one-sided polls.

Locals said as the BNP becomes weak, local Awami League leaders do not want to leave the field going by the directive of the party high-command.

Voters also suffer a sense of insecurity as supporters of the chairmen hopefuls may be locked in clashes during voting, they said.

Local leaders said the chaos develops as influential leaders, including lawmakers and ministers, want to establish their supremacy in their respective constituencies.

Some lawmakers ran campaign for their chosen candidates by breaching the electoral code.

Amid a fear of violence, a mobile court in Rajshahi on March 9 sentenced 11 Awami League leaders, including Durgapur municipality mayor Tofazzol Hossain and Jhaluka union parishad chairman Mojahar Ali, to a five-day jail for plotting sabotage.

All of them are leaders and activists of different units of local Awami League.

The EC also suspended the voting of Purbadhala Upazila in Netrakona due to violence.

Supporters of Awami League nominated candidate Jahidul Islam Sujon and its rebel Masud Alam Talukder were locked in clashes in Purbadhola upazila of Netrakona. The incident left at least 16 people injured.