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Election


Election a method of choosing among candidates for some posts or offices in the government, legislature and corporate bodies, for example, by the vote of those enfranchised to cast an open or secret ballot. In all ancient communities, as most anthropological and historical studies indicate, the institution of election in some form or other was very common. The ancient Greek systems of governance were characterised by elections, which were held normally by lot. Many of the native American tribes used to elect their chiefs by throwing corns into marked pots. In ancient India, local chiefs were often elected. In the Mughal imperial system, leaders chosen by the local people ran local government. In a district, the government appointed the faujdar (district officer) and some other high officials and the rest were elected by people. For example, the village people chose the muqaddam or village chief in Bengal and also the patwari or rent collector. The pargana kazis (thana judicial officer) and thanadars (thana officers) were also appointed on the recommendation of the village muqaddams. The village panchayet seems to be the most glaring example of the elective character of local governance until 1793, when it was formally abolished by lord cornwallis. But panchaye as an informal institution continued to operate until the local government system was evolved in the 1870s and 1880s.

The rise of modern nation states and political parties seeking state power has eventually resulted in the transformation of the traditional mode of elections. Elections are now inseparable from the growth of democratic forms of government. It began with the birth of the parliamentary process in England in the 13th century, followed by gradual regularisation by acts prescribing the frequency of elections (eg, The Trinnial Act of 1694 and the Septennial Act of 1716), and by successive reform bills widening the franchise in the 19th century and by the adoption of the secret ballot in 1872, and finally by introducing adult franchise in 1928.

The election system in Bengal, however, did not evolve the same way. The colonial rulers subverted the traditional system of election by abolishing local government institutions like the village chief, panchayet, patwari, amin, munsef, thanadar and qazi. All these institutions were traditionally operated through popular consent and co-operation. The elective institution of the western type was introduced in 1868 by enacting a municipal act (Act VI) providing for a municipal committee, two-thirds of whose members were elected and one-third nominated. Only the rate-payers of the municipalities were enfranchised to elect the members. The earliest Bengal municipalities to have elections were Serampore, Burdwan and Krishnanagar (1868). It was the Act III of 1884 that extended the elective system to all the important municipalities of Bengal, including Dhaka. Under the same Act the district committees and local boards were formed partly on the basis of election and partly by nomination.

The period following the introduction of a limited electoral system, in municipalities and rural areas, was marked by the extension of enfranchisement to rural areas. The electoral system was introduced at the level of legislative councils, both central and provincial, under the Government of India Act of 1909. The franchise and the elective bodies were further extended under the Government of India Act of 1919. From 1909 began elections on communal and occupational basis. Based on separate electorates, elections at local, municipal and national levels were held, though irregularly, from 1920 onward. The provincial election, held in 1937 under the Government of India Act of 1935, was marked by extensive franchise, though not universal till then. The election 1954 to the provincial legislature in East Bengal was the first to be held on the basis of universal franchise and last on the basis of separate electorates.

The people of Bengal showed an interest in elections from the time of its introduction. In fact, the election system was introduced in the municipality of Dhaka and in the district and rural boards in response to a popular demand spearheaded by an organisation called the Dhaka People's Association. Every extension of franchise granted subsequently was in response to public demand. But, in spite of people's interest in the representative system, the western type of election could never be transplanted successfully in Bengal, or for that matter, in India, for elections seem to have always been manipulated to serve the colonial, communal or other sectarian interests. Thus, in the interest of preserving colonial control, the government always tried to sway the elections in favour of the loyal elite classes, and the landholding class in particular. Both elected and nominated members on the committees and boards at municipal and local levels were predominantly landholders up to 1935. Even in the elections of 1937 they maintained their predominance.

The history of elections, has shown progressive political polarisation. Until 1920 candidates contested elections individually and independent of any party affiliation. Even in the elections of 1937, though held on party lines, independent candidates emerged as the largest group. Out of 250 seats, 81 were won by independent candidates (Muslim 43 and Hindu 39). Among the candidates nominated by parties, National Congress got 52 seats, Muslim League 39, Krishak Praja Party 36, and the rest went to various sectarian groups. The election results show that the candidates were not yet sharply polarised politically. But the scene changed fundamentally in the following decade. In the elections to the provincial legislatures, held in 1946 under the Act of 1935, the candidates put up by the Muslim League and Congress routed the independents. Though about three hundred candidates contested the elections independently, only eight of them (6 Hindus and 2 Muslims) were returned successfully. The age of elections participated in by the independents seemed to have ended thus. In all subsequent elections the success of independent candidates became the exception rather than the norm.

Several factors such as the Hindu exodus after the partition of 1947, abolition of the zamindari system and the introduction of universal adult franchise in 1956 radically changed the election pattern. The candidates in the provincial elections of 1954 and in the district board elections were predominantly non-resident lawyers and much younger than in the past. The process of change accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s when the contesting candidates were apt to be professional politicians and solvent financially. Circumstances such as the repressive Ayub regime (1958-1969), the autonomy movement (1966-1971), the war of liberation, post-war political developments, including the formation of BAKSAL and assassination of the architect of the nation, sheikh mujibur rahman, and consequent political instability, absolutely upset the tradition of elections. Henceforth elections tended to become more and more an instrument for the legitimisation and formalisation of a regime than for the institutionalisation of democracy. A number of such general elections held in the decades following 1975 were either boycotted by large numbers or provoked agitation.

The elections of 1991 and 1996 were the products of popular movements. The post-liberation war situation and the two elections in the wake of massive agitation contributed much to the restoration of a normal election system. But there has been a price to pay. Elections haunted by the spectre of political unrest were associated with a new element, santrash or terrorism, a new feature in the history of elections. Santrash is marked not only in public elections but also in elections for party positions. This unique phenomenon has made free and fair elections very difficult. The major political parties maintain armed cadres whose job is to canvass for them by intimidation, capture polling centres and in certain circumstances run away with ballot boxes. As a result, the politicians, press and members of the public always take election result with a pinch of salt. Under such circumstances, the losing party is apt to dismiss election results as the result of manipulation and calls for fresh election, a demand which the party in power refuses to accept.

Facts on elections Nine parliamentary elections were held in Bangladesh in 1973, 1979, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1996 (15 February), 1996 (12th June), 2001, and in 2008. Before the emergence of Bangladesh, general elections were held in Pakistan National Assembly and in Provincial Assembly in 1970.

General Election, 1970

National Assembly Election, 1970

Date of election 7 December 1970
Total number of voters 2,94,79,386
Cast votes 1,70,05,163 (57.68%)
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 7
Number of contesting political parties 16

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Awami League 162 160 1,23,38,921 74.9 Boat
PDP 79 1 4,83,571 2.9
Nejam-e- Islami 49 0 0 0
Jamaat-e-Islami 70 0 9,91,908 6
Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) 93 0 4,64,185 2.8
Pakistan Muslim League (Kou) 50 0 2,74,453 1.6
Pakistan Muslim League (Qayum) 65 0 1,75,822 1
National Awami Party (Wali) 39 0 3,10,986 1.8
Independent (politician) 114 1 5,61,083 3.4

Provincial Assembly Election, 1970

Date of election 17 December 1970
Total number of voters 2,94,79,386
Cast votes ---
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 10
Number of contesting political parties

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Awami League 300 288 89 Boat
PDP 2 1
Nejam-e- Islami 1
Jamaat-e-Islami 1 3
National Awami Party (Wali) 0 0.9
Pakistan Muslim League (Kou) 0 0.05
Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) 1 1
Pakistan Muslim League (Qayum) 0 0.05
Independent (politician) 7 5

First General Election, 1973

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1973

Date of election 7 March 1973
Total number of voters 3,52,05,642
Cast votes 1,93,29,683 (54.90%)
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 15
Number of contesting political parties 14

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Bangladesh Awami League 300 293 1,37,93,717 73.2 Boat
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal 237 1 12,29,110 6.52 Torch
National Awami Party (Mozaffar) 224 0 15,69,299 8.33 Hut
National Awami Party (Bhasani) 169 0 10,02,771 5.32 Sheaf of paddy
Communist Party of Bangladesh 4 0 47,211 0.25 Key
Communist Party of Bangladesh (L) 2 0 18,619 0.1 Bullock cart
Bangladesh Jatiya League 8 1 62,354 0.33 Plough
Banglar Communist Party 3 0 11,911 0.06 Axe
Others 120 5 9,89,884 5.52 ---

Second General Election, 1979

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1979

Date of election 18 February, 1979
Total number of voters 3,87,89,239
Cast votes 1,96,76,124 (50.94%)
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 30
Number of contesting political parties 29

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 298 207 79,34,236 41.16 Sheaf of paddy
Bangladesh Awami League (Malek) 295 39 47,34,277 24.55 Boat
Bangladesh Awami League (Mizan) 184 2 5,53,426 2.72 Ladder
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal 240 8 9,31,851 4.84 Torch
Muslim Democratic League 266 20 19,41,394 10.08 Lantern
National Awami Party (Mo) 89 1 4,32,514 2.25 Hut
National Awami Party (Naser) 28 0 25,336 0.14 Rose
National Awami Party (Nuru Jahid) 38 0 88,385 0.46 Lamp
Communist Party of Bangladesh 11 0 75,455 0.39 Key
United Peoples Party 70 0 1,70,955 0.89 Bullock cart
Bangladesh Jatiyo League 14 2 69,319 0.36 Plough
Bangladesh Gono Front 46 2 1,15,622 0.60 Bicycle
Jatiyatabadi Gonotantrik Dal 29 0 27,259 0.14 Fish
Shromik Krishak Samajbadi Dal 2 0 4,954 0.02 Umbrella
Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal 20 1 74,771 0.39
Bangladesh Gonotantrik Andolon 18 1 34,259 0.17 Chair
Bangladesh Labour Party 16 0 7,738 0.04 Clock
Jatiya Janata Party 9 0 10,932 0.06 Mango
Bangladesh Jatiya Dal (Huda) 6 0 0 Date tree
Bangladesh Gonotantrik Dal 5 0 3,564 0.01
Jatiya Ekata Party 3 1 44,459 0.23 Inkpot
Peoples Democratic Party 3 0 5,703 0.02 Horse
Bangladesh Jana Mukti Party 3 0 3,363 0.01 Spade
Jatiotabadi Gonotantrik Chashi Dal 2 0 130 0.01 Elephant
United Republican Party 2 0 389 0.01 Pineapple
Bangladesh Gono Ajadi League 1 0 1,378 0.01 Aeroplane
Bangladesh Nejam-e- Islami 1 0 1,575 0.01 Candle
Bangladesh Tati Samity 1 0 1,8340 0.01 Pitcher
National Republican Party 1 0 14,429 0.07 Cow
Independent (politician) 422 16 19,63,345 10.10 ---

Third General Election, 1986

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1986

Date of election 7 May 1986
Total number of voters 4,78,76,979
Cast votes 2,89,03,889 (60.31%)
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 30
Number of contesting political parties 28

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Jatiya Party 300 153 1,20,79,259 42.34 Plough
Bangladesh Awami League 256 76 74,62,157 26.15 Boat
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 76 10 13,14,057 4.60 Balance Scale
Communist Party of Bangladesh 9 5 2,59,728 0.91
National Awami Party (Mozaffar) 10 2 3,68,979 1.29
National Awami Party 5 3,68,979 1.29
Bangladesh Krishak Shramik Awami League 6 3 1,91,107 0.67
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rob) 4 7,25,303 2.54
Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj) 14 3 2,48,705 0.87
Muslim League 4 4,12,765 1.45
Bangladesh Workers Party 3 1,51,828 0.53
Independent 453 32 46,19,025 16.19
Others 4,90,389 1.73

Fourth General Election, 1988

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1988

Date of election 3 March 1988
Total number of voters 4,98,63,829
Cast votes 2,88,73,540 (54.93%)
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 30
Number of contesting political parties 8

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Jatiya Party 299 251 1,76,80,133 68.44 Plough
Combined Opposition Party 269 19 32,63,340 12.63
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj) 25 3 3,09,666 1.20
Freedom Party 112 2 8,50,284 0.94 Axe
Others 214 25 34,87,457 13.50

Fifth General Election, 1991

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1991

Date of election 27 February 1991
Total number of voters 6,20,81,793
Cast votes 3,44,77,803 (55.45%)
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 30
Number of contesting political parties 75

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 300 140 1,05,07,549 30.81 Sheaf of paddy
Jatiya Party 272 35 40,63,537 11.92 Plough
Bangladesh Awami League 264 88 1,02,59,866 30.08 Boat
Jaker Party (JDP) 251 0 4,17,737 1.22 Rose
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 222 18 41,36,661 12.13 Balance scale
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasad-Rab) 161 0 2,69,451 0.79 Water lily
Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) 68 5 6,16,014 1.81 Bi-cycle
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasad-Inu) 68 0 1,71,011 0.50 Flaming torch (Mashal)
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasad-Siraj) 31 1 84,276 0.25 Hand-Fan
Islami Oikya Jote 59 1 2,69,434 0.79 Minar
Bangladesh Communist Party (CPB) 49 5 8,07,515 1.19 Star
Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan 43 0 93,049 0.27 Banyan tree
Workers Party 35 1 63,434 0.19 Hammer
National Democratic Party (NDP) 20 1 1,21,918 0.36 Tiger
Ganatantri Party 16 1 1,52,592 0.45 Pigeon
National Awami Party (NAP-Muzaffar) 31 1 2,59,978 0.76 Hut
Others 429 3 4.78
Independent 424 0 4.39

Sixth General Election, 1996

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1996

Date of election 15 February 1996
Total number of voters 5,61,49,182
Cast votes 1,17,76,481
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 30
Number of contesting political parties 41

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 300 278 --- --- Sheaf of paddy
Freedom Party --- 1 --- --- Axe
Independent 10 0 --- --- ---

Seventh General Election, 1996

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 1996

Date of election 12 June 1996
Total number of voters 5,67,02,422
Cast votes 4,28,80,564
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 30
Number of contesting political parties 81

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Bangladesh Awami League 300 146 1,58,82,792 37.44 Boat
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 300 116 1,42,55,986 33.60 Sheaf of paddy
Jatiya Party 293 32 69,54,981 16.40 Plough
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 300 3 36,53,013 8.61 Balance scale
Islami Oikya Jote 166 1 4,61,003 1.09 Minar
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rab) 76 1 97,916 0.23 Flaming torch (Mashal)
Independent 284 1 4,50,132 1.06
Others 864 0 6,66,476 1.67

Eighth General Election, 2001

Jatiya Sangsad Election, 2001

Date of election 1 October 2001
Total number of voters 7,49,46,368
Cast votes 5,61,85,707
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats
Number of contesting political parties 54

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Four Party Alliance Bangladesh Nationalist Party 259 193 23,074,714 41.40 Sheaf of paddy
Islami Oikya Jote 6 2 312,868 0.56 Sheaf of paddy/ Minar
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 31 17 2,385,361 4.28 Balance scale
Jatiya Party (Naziur) 7 4 521,472 0.94 Sheaf of paddy (N-F)
Bangladesh Awami League 300 62 22,310,276 40.02 Boat
Islami Jatiya Oikya Front Jatiya Party (Ershad) Includes candidates of the Islamic National Unity Front 280 14 4,023,962 7.22 Plough
Krishak Shramik Janata League 39 1 261,344 0.47 Gamchha (napkin)
Jatiya Party (Manju) 140 1 243,617 0.44 Bicycle
Independent and others 6 2,262,045 4.06

Ninth General Election, 2008

Date of election 29 December 2008
Total number of voters 8,11,30,973
Cast votes 6,91,72,649
Total seat 300
Reserved women seats 45
Number of contesting political parties 16

Results

Alliance Political party Candidate contested Seats won Votes obtained Percentage Party symbol
Grand Alliance Bangladesh Awami League 259 230 33,887,451 49.0 Boat
Jatiya Party 46 27 4,867,377 7.0 Plough
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal 6 3 429,773 0.6 Flaming torch (mashal)
Workers Party of Bangladesh 5 2 214,440 0.3 Hammer
Liberal Democratic Party 18 1 161,372 0.2 Umbrella
Four Party Alliance Bangladesh Nationalist Party 256 30 22,963,836 33.2 Sheaf of paddy
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 39 2 3,186,384 4.6 Balance scale
Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP 10 1 95,158 0.1 ---
Independent and others 141 4 3,366,858 --- ---

[Sirajul Islam]