Former election commissioner Brigadier General (retd) M Sakhawat Hussain said huge negative propaganda about the election system has contributed to a low turnout of voters in polling centres.
Predicting a 25 percent turnout in Saturday's elections to the two city corporations in Dhaka, Sakhawat said voters feel apathetic towards exercising their voting rights when the election system is questioned continually.
The voter turnout was about 50 percent in the last election when Tabith Awal walked out, said Sakhawat while attending a television programme on Saturday.
Criticising the Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda's remark that they did not want to hold an election like this, Sakhawat said it is no use of saying what he did not want but there are many things which they did not try to control.
Though the former election commissioner termed the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all polling centres as a good initiative, he said there was a lack of campaign regarding the use of the machines.
"People were afraid of using EVMs. Besides, there was negative publicity about the use of machines," he said.
Moreover, there has been a public perception that their vote does no longer determine the election results nowadays, Sakhawat claimed.
"Over the last 7/8 years, the voter turnout in polling centres has come down significantly," he argued.
He said when the voting system was sealing on ballot papers, there were scopes for manipulation but that in the new system there is little scope for such irregularities. "But there had been huge negative propaganda, which intensified at the last moment of electioneering," Sakhawat added.
He said, "Some politicians said their rival party was planning to seize 170 polling stations while others said the number such polling centres would be 300 or even more.
"Some said around 12 lakh people have been hired from outside Dhaka to influence the city elections. Even some important persons made some negative statements, but that they were not supposed to do so."
This type of propaganda and counter-propaganda have led to the people's losing their trust in the whole election system.
It is reported that people have lost their trust in the Election Commission, he said, adding, "There were several incidents of clash before the election day which were not addressed properly."
All these things collectively contributed to negative propaganda.
Meanwhile, some may think that a low turnout of voters will go right as there is no threshold of voting percentage. In light of this situation, city dwellers, mainly the elite ones, think there is no need to get involved in trouble.
Sharing personal observation, Shakahawat said, "I saw huge gatherings in front of every polling station. If I were a voter, I would feel apathetic towards casting my vote fearing some trouble."
At the same time, he said negative propaganda is not helpful for healthy growth of democracy.
There are some developed countries where people are not interested in voting but in countries like ours, where voting means festival, people go for voting wearing new clothes.
A 25 percent voter turnout in a city like Dhaka means that 75 percent people did not cast their votes for whoever is elected as the mayor. In this case, the elected mayor may have to hear from the voters that they did not vote him.