The previous post tried to discuss how an election is rigged in Bangladesh.

Here are some common observations about rigging an election by casting fake votes with erroneously entered names.

1. If there is near 50/50 or even 60/40 chance of any of the two parties to win and with all the major political parties taking part, rigging probably won’t change the election outcome drastically. The factors that will help in such an election are
(A) Casting of fake votes will be challenged by the grassroots rival activists in contested constituencies.
(B) Unchallenged casting of fake votes in one area will be countered by fake votes cast in the rival’s stronghold in another
(C) In constituency like Gopalganj 3 or Bogra 7, the result is so one sided and certain that fake votes won’t dent the results.
(D) Mid level officials take the polling seriously and they feel accountable. In one sided or a already decided election, these
officials don’t have that pressure.

2. Rigging is by no means a one sided affair. All the major political parties or locally strong candidates will try to rig the election by means of fake voting.

3. Probably there is no real meaning to the words like ‘Media coup’ or ‘Fine rigging’ (Shukhkho Karchoopi) in a post 1990 national election. Let me explain why it is not possible. Parliamentary election is in fact 300 different elections. And each different election is also in fact a sum of elections in 100-500 election centers. Votes are polled in each center and counted in the center itself in front of agents of all parties. Then the sealed results, signed by presiding officer as well as the ballots are sent to the DC office. So, if there is any such suspicion, you simply can go back to the individual polling center wise results and add the numbers together. And remember, the counting of each center was witnessed by agents of all the candidates.

4. Occasionally polling centers are occupied forcefully and ballots are cast for a candidate. In a high profile election with better road and telecommunication in Bangladesh, these sorts of crimes are getting more and more difficult to commit. Now a days such attempts are instantly reported by candidates agents via cell phone network and the candidate can have the DC postpone the elections or send magistrate to then center. Candidates themselves sometimes rush to the center with his team.

How to ensure a better election?

1. Voter list.

About voter list, there is mistrust between political parties. When current EC wanted to have a new voter list, the then opposition went to Supreme Court and obtained orders from highest court directing to dump a new list project and rather upgrade previous governments (1996-2001) list. Why this controversy? Because BNP thought AL had put many fake voters in their strongholds in the last voter list. And when BNP wanted to have a new list AL thought the same of BNP.

Anyway when EC went ahead and did the upgraded voter list it didn’t have the law and means to remove names but rather add on new names. As a result what we got was just explained in NDI survey. Between 2001 and 1006, wrong voters’ numbers have soared from 7.8 million to 13 million with 7% duplication and 6% errors.

How to make the voter list effective?

1. Entrust most grassroots level of local government in voter list preparation responsibility. Union council chairmen and ward commissioners can do a better job. Because they live in the community, know all the people, they can be easily held accountable by the community and even the election commission in case of any complaint.
2. Instead of voter ID, use a digital image technology to put a small picture after the name on the list. Can be easily done by a cheap digital camera and a good database software. This will effectively halt fake voting unless you arrange a massive plastic surgery project.

And what we can do

1. Be patient. In took India more than fifty years to ensure fair election in places like Assam etc.
2. Start learning election process in Bangladesh. I feel that very few respected commentators in Drishtipat has a realtime on the ground experience on Bangladesh voting process.
(A)So use the opportunity of the upcoming election and be an observer in the election.
(B) Go to Bangladesh, select a constituency, take an Election commission credential. And start watching one or both the campaigns.
(C) Also can shadow a magistrate/DC/Presiding officer during election day .
(D) I believe Take Back Bangladesh initiative or Drishtipat or Change Bangladesh can arrange such process in partnership with
Shujan etc in Bangladesh. A nominal fund may be thought about.

3. Pick some constituencies which are expecting a tough battle. Also include areas where there have been a repeat of violence during last elections. Minority dominated areas also could be picked. Assign a team to constantly shadow the administration and candidates and vulnerable centers during thje election days and days leading to election. Again this could be a Drishtipat/Shujan /TBB effort. If we are really worried about minority franchise, it will be more worthwhile to make a team, be present in vulnerable locations and record the events. At least it could be more effective than sending write ups on this issue targeted towards an international audience. I have personally moved my travel date to Banglaesh to accommodate my presence at the minority dominant constituency of Chittagong 2.

I believe we rather should take a bottom up rather a head down approach. Take Back Bangladesh, Drishtipat or Change Bangladesh can be instrumental in this bottom up approach towards a better and healthy transition of government in Bangladesh.