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No manifestoes, little campaigns

Mohiuddin Alamgir and MH Maswood

One week into the official electioneering, political parties contesting the 10th parliamentary polls are yet to declare their election manifestoes and are hardly taking part in any kind of electoral campaigns ahead of the polls scheduled for January 5.
Elections in the past have involved intense campaigns, which included door-to-door visits by candidates, processions and public meetings, display of posters, banners, distribution of leaflets, PA system messages, setting up of election offices etc. According to our correspondents in Chapainawabganj, Satkhira, Khulna, Chittagong, Comilla, Gazipur, Sylhet and Sunamganj, hardly any serious campaigns have been visible during the last week.
With 154 candidates already elected uncontested, the dull environment has been further reinforced by the failure of all 12 parties taking part in the elections to declare their election manifestoes.
‘No one has come to me seeking my vote this year,’ said Zahidul Islam, a registered voter in Mirpur 10 area where at least three candidates are vying for the parliamentary seat.
According to our correspondents around the country, while some candidates visited their constituencies during the weekend, they mostly spent their time meeting party activists and did not take any initiative to reach out to voters. Some candidates admitted that the lack of election campaign had to do with the absence of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party from the elections.
‘There is a lack of festivity among voters because of a lack of choice of candidates, in the absence of BNP,’ said Abdul Matin Khasru, AL candidate for Comilla 5 constituency, who was visiting his electoral area (Burichang and Brahminpara) this weekend.
Golam Mostafa Biswas, AL candidate for Chapainawabganj 2, said ‘The campaign is yet to gain momentum’.
Some candidates, like AL candidate Mostak Ahmed Robi for Satkhira 2, have kept their campaigns limited to small areas such as municipalities.
Twelve political parties are contesting the polls this time, including ruling Awami League, its allies Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Inu), Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, Bangladesh National Awami Party, Ganatantry Party, Jatiya Party JP (Manju), Gana Front, Islami Front Bangladesh and the newly-floated Bangladesh Nationalist Front.
Although the Ershad-led Jatiya Party has boycotted the election, many of its candidates are taking part in the polls.
None of the parties could confirm the date on which their manifestoes would be announced, though the election conducting committee of the Awami League said it would do it in a day or two.   
A candidate from one the AL allies in the election admitted that with 154 candidates already elected and BNP not taking part, the manifesto has become essentially redundant. 
According to the Election Commission, 541 candidates are taking part in the polls for 146 constituencies. Together with the 154 already elected unopposed, this election has the lowest number of candidates and parties since the 1991 elections.
In 1991, there were 2,780 candidates and 75 political parties, In June 1996, the number of candidates was 2570 and political parties 81, the 2001 polls saw 1930 candidates and 54 political parties taking part, and in 2008, a total of 1550 candidates and 38 political parties contested the polls. Even in the controversial February 1996 election without the then main opposition Awami League, 1450 candidates and 41 political parties participated.

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