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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rangpur City Corporation Election - Bangladesh

Interim Statement
Rangpur City Corporation Election held on 20 December 2012

Rangpur, December 21, 2012: The first election to the recently constituted Rangpur City Corporation held on December 20, 2012 was marked by enthusiastic participation of voters particularly female voters who turned out in large numbers to cast their vote throughout the day in a cheerful atmosphere. The otherwise peaceful election was marred by an incident outside the Mohendra Government Primary School polling station (No. 177) in ward #33 where the supporters of two rival candidates clashed injuring several people leading to the arrest of three activists. There was massive presence of security personnel in the city corporation area.

Pemilu pertama di Kota Rangpur dilaksanakan tanggal 20 Desember 2012 ditandai dengan partisipasi pemilih yang antusias terutama dari pemilih perempuan. Tingkat partisipasi perempuan cukup tinggi dan dalam suasana yang menyenangkan. Namun, pemilu damai ini dinodai dengan perkelahian antara pendukung dua kandidat yang melukai sejumlah orang dan penangkapan 3 aktivis. Ada sejumlah kehadiran pihak keamanan dalam jumlah masif di daerah tersebut.  

The non‐party local body election was “competitive” offering voters a broad choice of candidates. Although non‐party election, many candidates affiliated with the political parties contested the election. Twelve mayoral, 327 councilor and 91 female councilor candidates contested for one mayor, 33 councilor and 11 female councilor positions.

Penyelenggara pemilu setempat terdiri dari bukan anggota partai menawarkan pemilih sejumlah kandidat. Walaupun pemilihan bukan partai, tetapi banyak kandidat berafiliasi dengan partai politik yang juga ikut berkompetisi dalam pemilu tersebut. Terdapat 12 calon walikota, 327 calon anggota parlemen, dan 91 perempuan bertanding untuk menjadi walikota (1 kursi), 33 kursi anggota parlemen dan 11 kursi untuk anggota parlemen perempuan.  

EVM use: The use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in four polling stations generated mixed reactions among the voters of those polling stations. While some voters were happy with the use of the EVMs others raised questions about the transparency of the process and integrity of the device.

FEMA notes that transparency is vital for trust and confidence in election process – more attention is needed with EVMs as how the vote is recorded and counted is not visible, unlike paper ballots. FEMA believes that transparency can be enhanced by allowing independent analysis of the electronic processes (such as source code, hard coded chips), combined with rigorous certification and audit processes. Transparency can be enhanced by the use of a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) meaning that a paper trail of the votes cast must exist which can be recounted in the event of challenges to the counting process.

FEMA recalls that while banning the use of EVMs, the German constitutional Court (2009) noted that manipulation/fraud of paper ballots is possible but has a high risk of detection but the manipulation of EVMs is very difficult to detect, thus EVMs require special transparency precautions such as VVPAT. In 2010, independent researchers who had been given an Indian EVM made an exhaustive study of its operations. The study concluded that the Indian EVMs could be manipulated in two ways by anyone with reasonable computer skills who has access to the EVM – 1) By replacing a display board on the EVM, a mobile phone can be used to switch votes between candidates; and 2) A device attached to the EVM’s memory can be used to change votes before they are tallied.
EVMs present significant risk – they are not a magic solution. FEMA recommends that before committing to using any EVM, EC needs to be sure that the EVM:
  • Provides transparency so that public and political party confidence in election results is maintained, particularly amongst election losers
  • Is sufficiently tamper proof to prevent manipulation of votes, of vote counts and of election results• Provides an audit trail (VVPAT) sufficient to provide evidence of the EVM’s integrity and accuracy in case of election result challenges
  • Is accepted, and able to be used easily, by Bangladeshi voters particularly the illiterate voters
  • EC needs to be sure that voters are fully educated on the EVM so that political forces cannot successfully spread false stories about their use
  • EC needs to be 100% confident that its staff and deputed officials all have the management skills to successfully operate EVMs in all areas they are used
  • EC needs to be aware it is lack of EVM transparency, perceptions of EVM integrity, possibilities of EVM fraud, not just reality, that have affected public attitudes to EVMs in other countries
  • Finally, all contestants must trust and accept the use of the EVMs.
The election campaign generated enthusiasm among the voters of the newly constituted City Corporation who braved the cold weather accompanied by dense fog and turned out to exercise their franchise. Long queues were observed in the polling stations. The presence of large number of women including senior citizens and some with their infant children revealed a safe environment for voters to cast their votes although the long queues meant long wait for voters.

The polling stations FEMA observers visited were located in neutral locations, generally in educational institutions. However, polling arrangements were inadequate in some polling stations such as in Khotkhotea Madrasha (19), Kellabondh Hafizia Madrasha (73), and Neelkantho Forkania Madrasha (92). There was not enough lighting arrangement in some polling stations including Khotkhotea High School (18). The polling officials were present in all polling stations. Polling materials were available in sufficient quantities in all polling stations.

Polling agents of candidates were present but not of all candidates. Polling agents present did not file any complaints about the process.

FEMA also observed the following irregularities during the voting process. At the Keramotia High School (89) polling station the polling officials were seen to have stamped the reverse side of ballot papers thus validating them well in advance. The reverse side of the ballot paper should be stamped and signed only before handing out the ballot paper to the voter, not in advance. In addition, domestic observers from an NGO accredited by the EC were prevented from observing the poll and their cards were taken away by the returning officer and the executive magistrate.

FEMA observed the Rangpur City Corporation poll by deploying 2 mobile teams comprising 14 observers from its central leadership and the Rangpur district committee to observe the voting process. The teams visited 30 polling stations spending about half an hour at each polling station.

FEMA Observation team was led by its Executive Committee member Monowar Hossain and included Advocate Zakia Sultana Choiti, Professor Nazneen Sultana Bithi, ASM Abdur Rahim among others.

This is an interim statement of the observation of the Rangpur city corporation election released after the voting process was over.

For further information:
Ferozul Alam,
Program Manager, FEMA
Cell: 01819938757

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