December 20, 2008

Clean Voter List, Clean Polls

The Bangladesh general election on December 29, 2008 will be remarkable in many ways. First of all the national ID card project with biometric data hindered the inclusion of false voters which was a regular affair in previous elections. See the comparative voter lists since the birth of Bangladesh:

What is remarkable is that for the first time we have more women voters (51%) than the previous lists. Another thing to note is that from 1996 to 2001 there was an increase of voters by 32.24%. Now there may be two reasons for that in 1996 less eligible voters were counted (exclusion of minority voters) and in 2001 some false voter were included.

This time around the growth is only 8% in 7 years. This has surely stripped away all those anomalies in the voters list, hopefully. There are also 33% young voters who will vote for the first time.

Another interesting aspect is the money part of this election. This time the election commission has restricted spending by candidates (Taka per voter 5 and 1.5 million Taka per constituency), banning vote buying or influence peddling and outlawing cash giveaways.

A recent AFP article looks at the impacts:
An election in Bangladesh is usually a chance for an ordinary voter to make a quick buck, enjoy a free meal and perhaps even grab a souvenir t-shirt at a campaign rally.

This year things are different.

"No-one is offering us money or anything else this time," said Abdul Jalil, a rickshaw puller in the capital, Dhaka. "Previously, we would get cash or other gifts during elections."
Now it will be interesting to see what a clean voter list and reducing the vote purchase phenomena can bring to the results of the election.


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