JS Constituencies: EC yet to begin demarcation
The Election Commission is yet to begin delimitation of parliamentary constituencies, a vital job ahead of the next national election, due to the unavailability of the final report on the latest census.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies is currently conducting the post-enumeration check of the census, said Matiar Rahman, director general of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
Demarcation of parliamentary seats, a complicated and technical job which sometimes creates controversy, takes a good amount of time, said EC officials.
In the process, some constituencies become larger and some other become smaller. This means some MP candidates in the next parliamentary election will have to woo new voters in their constituencies while some others would lose voters in their strongholds.
According to EC officials, the commission might need to bring significant changes in the delimitation of parliamentary seats this year as the demarcation will be done after the Population and Housing Census 2022.
The EC's work plan for the 12th parliamentary polls, announced in mid-September last year, set a target of preparing a new policy to demarcate constituencies by reviewing the previous policy by January, and complete delimitation by May.
The commission sent a letter to the BBS over one and a half months back seeking the final census report. But it received the preliminary census report from the BBS.
"We are waiting for the final census report for starting delimitation of parliamentary constituencies. We want to complete the process by May," Election Commissioner Md Alamgir told The Daily Star.
He said the EC would follow its work plan for the 12th national election, likely to be held late December this year or early January next year.
"We will wait for a certain period for the final census report. If we do not get it, we will go ahead with delimitation using the old census data."
The BBS launched the preliminary census report in July last year.
Dilder Hossain, project director of the Population and Housing Census 2022, said they were expecting to have the post-enumeration check report from the BIDS soon.
According to the delimitation of constituencies law, boundaries of Jatiya Sangsad constituencies should be redrawn based on the distribution of population as given in the latest census report, keeping in mind intact administrative units and administrative convenience.
The commission will have to publish a preliminary list of redrawn constituencies and the voters will get the chance to file appeals against the EC's decision.
The EC would be able to finalise demarcation only after settling the objections.
According to the preliminary report of the 2022 census, the country's total population was about 16.52 crore, up from 14.40 crore in 2011 census. Population in Dhaka, Chattogram, Khulna and other cities saw a significant rise.
The latest census said there were 59.79 lakh people in Dhaka north city and 43 lakh in Dhaka south city. There were 69.70 lakh people in undivided Dhaka in 2011.
The latest report says that population of 63 districts increased, but it came down in Jhalakathi in comparison with the data of the 2011 census.
EC officials said this year they might need to redraw more constituencies than in 2018 when the delimitation was done ahead of 11th parliamentary polls.
The then KM Nurul Huda-lead commission brought changes to boundaries of 25 constituencies in 2018. The ATM Shamsul Huda-led commission brought massive changes to 133 constituencies in 2008. That was the first demarcation of constituencies after the 2001 census.
The then commission, headed by Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, redrew the boundaries of 87 constituencies in 2013 ahead of the 10th parliamentary elections. That was also the first demarcation after the 2011 census.
Election expert Abdul Alim said the EC should follow the international guiding principles for redrawing constituencies. The areas should be as equal as possible. The variation in the number of voters between constituencies should be plus or minus 5 percent, he added.
"We see that one constituency has more than seven lakh voters and another has only about two lakh."
If voters and other stakeholders suspect that the electoral boundaries have been drawn unfairly, it affects the credibility of the entire electoral process, he told The Daily Star.
"Hence, electoral boundaries must be drawn in a manner that promotes credible and fair elections," added Alim who worked on behalf of United Nations with the ATM Shamsul Huda-led EC.