AL-BNP-JP one in opposing ‘no vote’ restoration

Dhaka, Aug 5 – Though Awami League and BNP are poles apart over almost all the election issues, they have at least one thing common – opposing the restoration of ‘no vote’ as suggested by civil society members.The leaders of the two parties said the civil society members’ proposal is unrealistic, and it will not have any positive impact on the country’s election culture as the majority voters have little idea about its significance for lack of enough education.
Apart from Awami League and BNP, another major party, Jatiya Party, also thinks the restoration of ‘no vote’ is an insignificant matter. They said those who do not like democracy are talking about ‘no vote’ option.
Though the ruling party leaders are directly opposing it, BNP has taken a tactic not to oppose it or speaking against it openly.
Most of the civil society members who joined the Election Commission’s maiden dialogue on Monday last suggested the commission to bring back the ‘no vote’ system in the next polls.
Awami League presidium member Abdul Matin Khasru said the proposal for restoring the ‘no vote’ option is impracticable. “We’re not thinking about it. This provision is not applicable to a country like Bangladesh where its cent percent voters are not educated.”
Awami League joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said their party has not yet taken any decision about it. “But, I think, we don’t need to restore it.”
He said the nation did not get any positive result by applying it in the 2008 election. “Our party also wants to see the EC to be a stronger and effective body to hold a fair election. The Civil Society members gave various suggestions, but the EC will only accept the logical ones.”
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said they have no objection to all the proposals made by the civil society members, except restoration of the ‘no vote’. “We’ll decide on it later.”
BNP standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed think it matters little whether the ‘no vote’ provision is restored or not.
They, however, said their party will come up with its formal reaction to it after an elaborate discussion at the party forum.
Another BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity, said their party does not want to have the provision restored. “But, we’ll remain silent over the issue since Awami League is against it.”
Jatiya Party co-chairman GM Quader said this is an insignificant system for election in Bangladesh. “’No vote’ system is there in many countries, but it has no value.”
In 2008, the ‘No Vote’ provision was installed in the Representation of the People Order (RPO), 1972 ahead of 9th parliamentary elections. The ‘no vote’ option was also used in the general election. But the Awami League government removed it from the RPO in 2009.
In the 9th national election held in 2008, a total of 3,81,924 voters chose ‘no vote’ option not casting the ballot in favour of any candidate across the country. The proportion of ‘no vote’ was 0.55 percent of the total casting voters (some 7.06 crore). Then the time the country had some 8.1 crore voters.
In the EC’s recent electoral dialogue, many civil society members suggested bringing back the ‘no vote’ option arguing that such practice used in many democratic countries. Out of around 35 participants, only two opposed the restoration of ‘no vote’ option. – UNB