President Abdul Hamid yesterday said there should be initiatives to make the voters aware of their rights and responsibilities.
"The more the voters will be aware, the more the election will be fair," he was quoted by UNB as saying.
The call comes a day after the poor voter turnout in Dhaka North City Corporation mayoral by-polls demonstrated what experts said was a sign of people's diminishing confidence in the country's electoral system.
Commentators have been pointing out that many people who were deprived of their voting rights in several previous elections might have lost interest in polling. Many voters expressed similar sentiments to reporters.
Delivering his speech as the chief guest at a "National Voter Day" porgramme organised by the Bangladesh Election Commission on its premises, the president said, "We have to choose appropriate leadership from the grassroots to the national level. The most acceptable method of leadership selection is the voting system."
The EC observed National Voter Day for the first time with the theme "I will be a voter, I will cast vote."
Although holding election is the constitutional responsibility of the EC, everyone irrespective of their party and opinions have to extend cooperation to make the election fair and acceptable, he said.
"Celebration of the National Voter Day is very important. If the day is observed properly at the grassroots level, it will create a positive impact on the democratic culture of the country.
"Then the political culture of peace, harmony, sympathy and tolerance would be developed instead of the blame game in politics. Democracy and development will advance to the desired goal."
He called upon journalists, teachers, members of civil society, Imams of mosques and all dignitaries of the society to come forward so that people could be enlisted in the voter list.
"Nearly a million people of Bangladesh live abroad. They are playing an important role in the country's economy by sending foreign currencies. But many of them do not have a national ID card. I think the Election Commission should take special initiative so that the expatriates could get national ID cards."
QUADER DEFENDS LOW TURNOUT
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader yesterday said the country's major political parties would face a huge setback if they refrain from taking part in the local government elections.
“BNP will plunge into a crisis in the next general election as it has started boycotting election deceptively,” he said while addressing a press conference at party Chief Sheikh Hasina's Dhanmondi political office.
In his reaction over DNCC by-election, Quader said BNP leader Sadeque Hossain Khoka was elected as a mayor of then undivided city corporation in 2001 when “only 10 percent votes were cast.”
Responding to a query, the Awami League leader said earlier the BNP had taken part in the city corporation elections and secured victory in four cities. “It means BNP takes part in polls upon sensing favourable time.”
Asked about poor turnout of voters, he said a major political party did not participate in the election, and moreover, it was a holiday which is why most of the voters went to their village homes.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud claimed that by-elections usually witness lower rates of participation than that of the fresh ones, and that is why there was a low voter turnout in DNCC mayoral by-poll.
He came up with the remarks yesterday while addressing a seminar on 'Children's Right' at the Shilpakala Academy in Chattogram.
He claimed that 32 percent voters had casted their votes in the election.
Mahmud also opined that BNP did not join the poll as it lost people's support.
BNP's activists also lost trust on their leadership, forcing the party not to take part in the election after their landslide defeat in the December 30 election, he added.