A global project namely the Electoral Integrity Project’s (EIP) has termed the January 05, 2014 election in Bangladesh as a “failed” one. That ballot has been ranked 113th in a list of 127 elections worldwide between 1 July 2012 and 31 December 2014, according to EIP annual report released in February.
Elections only in insurgency-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Congo are placed below Bangladesh’s 2014 polls, boycotted by all other parties outside the fold of Awami League-led combine.
The EIP, commissioned by University of Sydney, Australia, and Harvard University, of the USA, also prepared a perception of electoral integrity and gave the 2014 Bangladesh election 49.6 marks compared by 86.6 of the top-scorer – Norway.
Under a sub-head “Several failed elections raised major red flags”, the EIP report named Bangladesh alongside five countries – Egypt, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Syria – that had the worst elections in 2014.
When asked, election commissioner Abdul Mobarak termed this kind of survey a positive step which, he said, would help Bangladesh’s electoral system with those of other countries and also create demand for better elections in the future.
“Many raised question about credibility of 5 January elections boycotted by the BNP and other parties but there was no alternative to holding the election for the sake of constitutional legacy,” he observed.
He recalled the first election in India held in 1920 was boycotted by Congress and Muslim League. The 1970 election was boycotted by National Awami Party of Maulana Bhasani but it gave birth to Bangladesh. “So, the 5 January election can’t be considered worthless,” he said.
The civil society groups at home and abroad and various international actors consider the flawed ballot on 5 January as key reason for the current political crisis.
The BNP-led 20-party alliance has now been demonstration with blockade and hartal programmes demanding mid-term polls under a non-party administration.
According to the EIP report, the five best elections in the year were in Lithuania, Costa Rica, Sweden, Slovenia and Uruguay.
Elections in the United States scored lowest among all Western nations and experts were concerned about American electoral laws and voter registration procedures, both areas of heated partisan debate.
The report aims to evaluate the quality of elections – both presidential and parliamentary – held around the world.
Based on a rolling survey collecting the views of election experts, the research, conducted under the direction of Prof. Pippa Norris, provides independent and reliable evidence to compare whether countries meet international standards of electoral integrity.
The EIP report mentioned that the Jatiya Sangsad election was boycotted by 18 opposition parties, led by the BNP, in protest against the abolishment of the caretaker government provision.
A total of 153 seats were uncontested, mostly going to the government led Awami League.
“Voter turnout was low, due to both the boycott and violence,” the report said. At least 21 people were killed, over 100 polling centres were set on fire, and the Electoral Commission suspended voting at over 300 polling stations due to the conflict.