The Election engineering

The phrase, Election engineering, is being used more frequently during these days. Everyone believe that the proposed 2007 election will surely be engineered by BNP.

Lets discuss what is election engineering and how it can be prevented.

Not so black and white.

There is a common believe among these diasporas that the current EC is all bad and the former EC led by Abu Hena was all good. Well, here are some facts,

These are the immediate two past elections in Bangladesh,

1. Dinajpur 1 By election supervised by CEC Aziz and SM Zakaria. It was a Jamaat seat from 2001 became vacant as jamaat leader Kafi died.

AL boycotted the bye election. Manaranjan Shil Gopal, an ex JP men, ran independent and bagged 1,12, 977 vote and defeated Jamaat candidate who bagged only 50,000 votes. Jamaat-BNP used all their means to win back the seat. Jamaat activist were arrested while disbursing money among hired people. However in 2001 Jamaat candidate got 90,000 vote while Gopal got only 40,000 vote.

2. CTG Mayor race was won by AL‘s Mohiuddin Chy by about 100,000 votes. This vote was also supervised by S M Zakaria while Aziz joined within days. Abu Hena already gone. BNP-Jamaat led by Tareq Rahman put maximal weight to defeat Mohiuddin Chy.

3. Then let’s discuss another election when CEC was Abu Hena and EC was janatar mancha famed Shafiur Rahman. It was much talked about Dhaka 10 bye election where Falu defeated Mannan by 30,000 votes, where Falu got 70,000 votes and mannan got 40,000 votes. Abu Hena or Shafiur Rahman had to supervise these shameful farce of an election.

Who Conducts Election?

While we talk relentlessly about a fair election and the need for kicking out one after another election commissioner, let me ask a question who really conducts an election? If you read constitution and EC roles, you will see EC only arranges election, set the stage, and publish the results. But the election is conducted, voting is managed and votes are counted by the local government led by the returning officer, (usually the DC) with the help of presiding officers, (usually local govt officials, headmasters, medical officers, Thana level officers). The polls are directly conducted by polling officers, who are usually the school teachers.

How an election is rigged

You need local clout, manpower and muscle. What usually happens is that you have to cast as many fake vote as possible. You arrange human heads, mobilize them and have them cast the ballots. Usually both strong sides do it, but the side with more manpower and muscle fair better. Occasionally if opposition is not that strong, one party takes control of the polling center, seal the ballots and fill the boxes. 10,000 votes @ 1000 /center can change an election result.
Do you know how Falu won Dhaka 10? By 10 AM it was all Mannan’s vote . Suddenly hot headed Mannan, succumbing to the constant BNP muscle pressure and loosing the cool, called in press conference and withdrew from polls. This was all over in TV. All his potential voters didn’t show up any more. Mannan’s polling agents left the polling centers. Buy by this time manan already casted 40,000 vote on his side. When Mannan made an empty field, Falu started sending bus full of people to cast votes enough to give him a 30,000 margin.

That’s why Voter List is so important

All party want a higher number of voters in areas which they traditionally can control by muscle. AL did this in 2000 list and BNP did in a much bigger scale in the current list. I know village X is my stronghold. So make as many fake voters as possible in village X. These votes will be tried to be cast sometimes during the election day by party activists as fake voters.

How to Stop rigging

1. Need both AL and BNP in the field, i.e. both parties have enough manpower to mobilize and sent to centers instantly and thus netralizing each other.
2. The DC and magistrate need to be very proactive and fast to respond to all the calls. Their day in fact passes getting all the complaints anyway. They do send magistrate in response. They should respond to all sides of allegation and move very promptly in sending magistrate or army.
3. A mobile phone at the hand of all polling agents. This will be first election after all of Bangladesh came under mobile networking. In the past an agent had no way to inform the party control room about ongoing rigging. Instead they left the center or observed hopelessly. Now with mobile phone technology, once he informs the control room and if the party has enough manpower ready in a van to dispatch some activists immediately, rigging can be curbed significantly. Both parties have to keep such vigilance and pressure all day on each other. It is something like the football game in America.

4. In Dinajpur 1 constituency or CTG Mayor election this cell phone, microbus strategy was used very successfully to effectively ensure neutralize massive rigging. Poling agents immediately asked for help when opposition activists start gathering. A ontrol or dispatch room then first despatched bus full of activists and challenge the rigging and at the same time keep bugging the magistrate and DC office. . And in Dhaka 10, until Mannan withdrew from election at 10 AM, Bikalpa Dhara and AL workers were strongly guarding the centers against rigging.
5. Illegal arms need to be recovered. Theer should be as less illegal as possible on the election day. That weakens the muscle power that is used to capture polling centers.

Who matters more in election, DC/SP/Magistrate or Election Commission.

Election commission has practically no power in helping rig an election. What they can do is that they can demarcate constituency to favor a party, place a polling center in one party’s stronghold, declare election schedule to favor one particular party etc. They also are the judges in election tribunal and they can manipulate that. But these midlevel bureaucrats i.e. DC, SP (police super), Magistrate can effect an election significantly by simply delaying the response by five minutes. E.g Rigging is going on village Y. DC will send magistrate to there but will do that after sending to village Z first. This delay will help one side to win.

The DC/SP and the magistrates

Awami League knows it well that the DC/SP/Magistrates are the group who matter in election, not the ECs, not Azziz or Zakaria etc. These midlevel bureaucrats are generally not wildly partisan to one side or the other. They are more concerned about their career future. So they want to favor the possible winning side. AL played the game quite well in 96 election and BNP did in 2001. AL knows only way these midlevel officers will think AL will win is by creating election wave (Joar) in favor of AL. That is possible by scoring a victory in street movement.

My friends blame me for not taking a side in this movement. I don’t take side because I do not think the movement against the EC is an honest movement. We should have a different focus to ensure a fair election. Shouting Huy hasan Huy Hasan then Huy Aziz Huy Aziz then Huy Zakaria Huy Zakaria won’t ensure a fair election.

So what should we do for a good election?

To be continued in part 2.