A close look at the behaviour of our democrats at the grassroots during the ongoing municipality polls tells us an unpleasant story of electoral democracy.
Media reports testify many of them engaged in all types of electoral irregularities to ensure the only desired result: a win. None of them believe in defeat. They were not prepared to make concession speeches and congratulate the winners to honour the people's verdict expressed in ballots.
Even in the second phase of the polls held on Saturday, a councillor-elect of Sirajganj municipality was hacked to death by the followers of the defeated candidate who belongs to the party in power.
Followers of another candidate in Gaibandha carried out an attack on law enforcement agency members who were taking ballot boxes full of people's verdict to the city headquarters of the returning officer. They set a police vehicle on fire and vandalised three others used by magistrates and RAB. Reports say followers of a ruling party dissident mayoral candidate were allegedly involved in the attack and vandalism.
Resorting to muscle power in a bid to capture polling stations with the sole aim to stuff ballot boxes and driving out of opponents' polling agents and followers for achieving their goal were recorded in newspapers reports.
In the run up to the polling day, the number of incidents of violence increased more than the ones that took place in the first phase election three weeks ago.
In Jhenaidah, two people including a councillor candidate were killed. Incidents of violence took place in Rajshahi, Barguna and a few other districts.
Not to be surprised, local leaders and their followers of the party in power were engaged in all electoral irregularities and incidents of violence.
Some of them insurrected against the party high command and contested the battle of ballots, exposing the lack of discipline in the ruling camp.
Intra-party conflict in some areas came to the fore as local MPs sided with dissident mayoral candidates who were not nominated by the party. In some places, local MPs publicly joined electioneering for the mayoral hopefuls they supported defying the electoral code of conduct that bars them from doing so.
Therefore, one group of ruling party men became rivals of another group. Both have little bothered the local administration which has a long tradition of siding with ruling party men.
Needless to say the candidates fielded by the party in power and its dissidents have won most of the mayoral posts in the two phases of staggered polls.
The opposition BNP has been a sunken ship needed to get salvaged.
Outcomes in the first two phases indicate that the ruling party men may appear victorious in the upcoming polls to remaining municipalities.
In the Chattogram City Corporation, polls scheduled for 27 January are no different. Two local workers of the ruling party were killed in the clashes between the two groups of the party.
Why are they so hell bent to grab the mayor posts by any means to emerge as public representatives? What has made the posts so attractive? There are many answers.
But in this hoopla, it is difficult to find reflection of the main purpose of election in these polls.
People who are constitutionally guaranteed the fundamental rights to voting to elect their representatives have been side-lined.
Is holding such elections in times of pandemic so important to protect, preserve and uphold the electoral democracy at the grassroots level? At a time when the policymakers are struggling to find ways for reopening educational institutions in fear of the spread of the virus?
Election day recorded an unwarranted different picture. The Election Commission's directives on wearing masks and maintaining social distance were largely ignored by polling officials, voters and followers of the candidates alike, according to media reports. That indicates they have little fear of the coronavirus.
The Election Commission, which is constitutionally tasked with holding the polls, has however come up with the same old story after the two phases of the municipality polls: elections were peaceful except some sporadic untoward incidents.
Holding elections in times full of uncertainty should be considered as a win for electoral democracy. But what happened in the first two phases of the polls tells an opposite story.
In many developing countries where other democratic institutions look weak and fragile, only electoral democracy makes bigger noise. In words of critics, this is not democracy-but democrazy.
Shakhawat Liton is the Deputy Executive Editor of The Business Standard