Voters are apparently showing little interest in the ongoing upazila elections, which has seen less than 15 percent voter turnout in at least four upazilas.
Election Commission sources said only 8.63 percent voters cast their votes in the Dakhhin Surma election in Sylhet district and 9.38 percent of voters voted in Jaintapur upazila election in the same district.
Besides, 13.13 percent exercised their franchise in the Bogura sadar upazila election and only 13.19 percent turned up for the election to Bagmara upazila of Rajshahi district.
Sources further said Gowainghat upazila in Sylhet registered a 16.53 percent voter turnout, 20.63 in Panchagarh sadar, 21.66 percent in Santhia of Pabna, 24.89 percent in Gaibandha sadar upazila, 24.94 percent in Kurigram sadar, 25.97 in Bera of Pabna, 26.09 percent in Lalmonirhat sadar and 26.63 in Ishwardy of Pabna.
Less than 30 percent votes were cast at Shairakandi, Dhunat and Shahjahanpur of Bogura, Mandha of Pabna, Fatikchhari of Chattogram, Ulipur of Kurigram and Punhtia of Rajshahi.
EC data shows voter turnout was less than 30 percent during the second phase of the elections held in 19 upazilas.
It also shows that voter turnout in the first two phases was the lowest since 2009.
The voter turnout in the 2009 upazila polls was 70.57 percent, it fell to 61.23 percent in 2014, and declined further down to 43.31 percent in the first phase of the upazila election and 41.25 percent during the second phase.
EC sources said they calculated the voter turnout excluding the seven upazilas of Rangamati as the results of those were yet to reach the commission.
Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam attributed the low voter turnout to the absence of some registered political parties in the elections.
“So the election became less competitive and participation of voters became less than in previous elections,” he said at a meeting with law enforcement agencies and administration officials in Barishal Circuit House yesterday.
Meanwhile, local government expert Professor Tofail Ahmed and Election watchdog Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar both cast doubt on the EC voter turnout information on the first two phases of upazila elections.
“Turnout percentage is not dependable, somehow it is managed” claimed Tofail Ahmed.
“Voters are totally indifferent to voting. They do not have any expectation from the candidates. Rather they have something to lose in terms of security,” Tofail told The Daily Star.
“Only party loyalists cast their votes.”
Similarly, Badiul Alam Majumder termed the EC turnout figures “questionable”.
“We have seen evidence of voter-less election, as no voter came to vote,” he claimed.
He also called the election “one-sided” as the people already considered its results “certain”.
“Voters have become disinterested because they were not sure whether casting of their votes will make any difference,” he said, adding that voters feared they would not be able to cast their votes if they did turn up at the centres.
“Most importantly they [voters] lost faith in the EC” he said.
This year election to 480 upazilas will take place in five phases.
The BNP; Left Democratic Alliance, a combine of eight left-leaning parties; Islami Andolan Bangladesh; Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan and Bangladesh Muslim League have boycotted the election.
They said they boycotted the polls as they did not see any prospect of a free and fair election.
The BNP alleged that the EC was controlled by the government and that's why it might stage “another farce” over the polls like it did with the national election won by the ruling Awami League.
As per Article 59 of the Constitution, the Upazila Parishads are designated to perform significant functions relating to administration and the work of public officers, maintenance of public order, the preparation and implementation of plans relating to public services and economic development.
For the first time in Bangladesh's history, political parties are nominating aspirants for upazila council, which includes a chairman, a vice-chairman and a female vice-chairman.