As the dust settles and the blood of people killed in election violence dries in the fourth phase of Union Parishad elections, the ruling Awami League may not view the triumph of only 56% of its candidates as a positive measure of its popularity.
The AL, which could have capitalised on the absence of its biggest rival, the BNP, from the UP elections, has instead been battered by its own rebel candidates so far.
In fact, the whole ordeal seems like a Spiderman meme, with AL leaders pointing to other AL leaders over the violence that has gripped the elections, leaving 72 people dead.
Till the filing of this report at 8:00pm, The Business Standard obtained results of 2,986 out of 3,026 parishads. It showed that so far 41.66% of independent chairman candidates were elected, while AL candidates secured 56.86% of the posts.
What's also important to note is that most of the independent candidates were supporters of AL, who broke away after failing to get party nominations. This, however, did nothing to curb the violence.
In this regard, local government expert Tofail Ahmed said the ruling party did not own its own workers. Its workers were being killed and it was also their workers who were doing the killings. And since nothing is being done about it, the death toll in the elections has kept rising.
Many political analysts had expected a landslide victory for the ruling party. While 1,636 people secured posts banking on the boat symbol, the 1,244 who did it without the party tag are the bigger focus of discussions.
Another 10% chairman candidates, all AL-backed, who were elected unopposed can also merit some thought.
Tofail Ahmed said the elections had long-lost their standard and were now irrelevant to politics. "A one-party election is taking place now. The state and administration are failing to fulfil their responsibilities," he said.
Terming the recent elections a mere formality, Tofail further said that the Election Commission (EC) had nothing to say now as they conducted the election while being in bed with the administration. "What will they do if the administration doesn't listen to them? They failed to do anything before. Now, the administration will no longer listen to them. This is normal."
Former election commissioner Brig Gen (Retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said that this is what happens when a party is in power for too long. Again, local government elections are being held for political parties. Which is a wrong and dangerous decision.
The fifth phase of UP elections, schedule of which was announced in late November, is slated for 5 January, while the final sixth phase will be held on January 31.
In the fourth phase on December 26, voting took place in 638 UPs of 116 upazilas of 58 districts of the country. Independent chairman candidates won 45% of the seats. A total of 48 chairman candidates, on the other hand, were re-elected without a single vote cast as they stood unopposed.
At this stage, seven people were killed in clashes - four during the election campaign and three on the night after the election.
In the third phase on November 28, independent candidates had also secured 45% of the posts. Four-hundred-forty-six candidates were elected to the chairman post, while AL-backed candidates won in 525 unions. Twenty-one candidates from other parties were also elected at this time.
Clashes, a predominant theme of the elections, left 27 killed and hundreds injured.
The second phase, which was also the deadliest with 33 killed in the by-elections, took place in 834 UPs on November 11.
Results showed that 330 chairpersons were elected from independent candidates, 81 were reelected unopposed and 18 candidates from other parties managed to win the posts.
Meanwhile, due to Covid-19, the first phase of the elections was held in two parts. Voting was held in 204 UPs in the first phase on June 21 and in 160 UP elections in the second phase on September 20.
In the first phase, 49 independents won and 148 using the boat symbol won. There were also seven independent candidates. Of the AL-backed elected candidates, 28 won unopposed.
In the second phase on September 20, a total of 29 independents and 131 boat candidates won.
In this phase, 72 were elected without a vote.
At this stage, five people were killed.
Despite various irregularities, clashes and deaths in the election, the EC has not been able to take any effective action in this regard. Commission officials told the media after each election that "except for a few isolated incidents, the election has been fair, peaceful and participatory."
They assured that if any matter was brought to their notice, they would take action after an investigation. But what steps would be taken was never clarified.
At present, there are 4,571 union parishads across the country. So far, voting has been completed in 3,026 UP.