Six By-Elections: Public apathy to blame for low turnout Say experts
The turnout of 16 percent voters on Wednesday's by-polls to Brahmanbaria-2 was the lowest in any by-election held in the last four years, excluding the ones held amid coronavirus restrictions.
Turnouts for Bogura-4 and -6, Chapainawabganj-2 and -3 by-polls held the same day were among the lowest, according to Election Commission (EC) data.
However, voter turnout in Thakurgaon-3 was one of the highest since the 11th national polls held on December 30, 2018.
Experts blame the absence of participatory and competitive elections and the erosion of people's trust in the EC because of its failure to hold the last two general elections in a free and fair manner for the people's apparent nonchalance towards voting.
However, the EC officials said BNP's absence in the elections and the lack of an Awami League candidate in three constituencies were the reasons why voter turnout was low. Besides, people are aware that the individuals elected in the by-polls will get to be lawmakers for less than a year.
The previous two ECs were criticised for holding "one-sided" polls in 2014 and 2018. In the former, 153 out of the 300 MPs were elected unopposed. In the latter, there were widespread allegations of ballot stuffing the night before the polls.
"Questions about the acceptability of 2014 and 2018 national elections and many other polls have gradually eroded most of the people's trust in the Election Commission. The latest poor turnout was a result of that lack of trust," said election expert Abdul Alim, who earlier worked on behalf of the United Nations with an EC.
The recent resignation of six BNP lawmakers from parliament made Wednesday's by-polls necessary.
Since the last general election, the current EC had held 30 by-polls. Thirteen of those were held amid coronavirus restrictions between March 17, 2020, and August 19, 2021.
Five by-polls were held before the restrictions were imposed and 12 after they were lifted.
No voting was needed in four by-elections because only one individual ran for MP in each.
Voter turnout on Wednesday was 16.10 percent in Brahmanbaria-2, 22.33 percent in Bogura-6, 23.92 percent in Bogura-4, 29.07 percent in Chapainawabganj-3, 34.78 percent in Chapainawabganj-2 and 46.30 percent in Thakurgaon-3.
The Awami League did not nominate anyone in Brahmanbaria-2, Bogura 4, and Thakurgaon 3. However, the AL's support for independent runner Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan in Brahmanbaria-2 was obvious. The ruling party officially supported candidates in two other constituencies.
The previous lowest turnout, 21.29 percent, was recorded in October 2019 during the Rangpur-3 by-polls.
Late Jatiya Party leader HM Ershad's son Rahgir Al Mahi Saad Ershad won that election in which no AL nominee participated.
"The voters lose interest when elections are not participatory and competitive," said Abdul Alim.
Contacted, Election Commissioner Rashida Sultana yesterday said turnout was good in Thakurgaon and Chapainawabganj and comparatively lower in Brahmanbaria and Bogura.
Bogura is known as a BNP stronghold, she said. Since the party was not a part of the by-polls, the BNP supporters did not come to the polling stations.
"The tenure of these MPs is only eight or nine months. That's why the voters didn't feel much interest in these by-elections," she said.