Local govt polls leave some lessons
Friday, 08 August 2008

The four city corporations and nine municipalities held on Monday with huge turnout has offered some precious lessons for us. All who were elected belong to political parties, not reformist groups, a coinage discovered during the last 18 months. Participation of political parties in the polls, barring the BNP and its allies, generated enthusiasm of the electorate to choose democratically their local representatives. In some polling centers, the turnout exceeded over 85 percent, which is certainly a good news for next general election. The Election Commission described the mayoral polls as a test case ahead of the planned general elections set for December this year. Voters or candidates did not make any complaint of troubles. But that does not justify retaining state of emergency, which connotes an abnormal political situation in the country. The country belongs to people. In fact, lifting of emergency, not mere relaxation, should have been tested this time in four city corporations and nine municipalities. The area was very small, compared to upazila polls or parliamentary election. The interim government as well as the Election Commission has missed the unique chance of seeing how peaceful the poll atmosphere could have been without emergency.  The culture of election has appeared to have changed this time and the election atmosphere was better then anytime in the past. There was a huge turnout of female voters apparently because of the peaceful atmosphere. Under the Bangladesh constitution, local government polls are non-political or non-party elections but treated as politically crucial as candidates backed by major parties take part in the polls in individual capacities. Even observers have welcomed the peaceful holding of the poll. In its preliminary findings, The presence of female voters was well marked. There were problems faced by some voters due to the confusion related to voter list with photo kept by polling officials and voter list without photo used by candidates. There was also confusion among the voters who brought their National ID Card having serial numbers different from the voter list used by the polling officials.  The Election Commission will hopefully correct the flaws before the next election. The successful and peaceful holding of the local government polls has unearthed people’s yearning for tasting sustainable democracy .

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