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Majority think polls ‘a farce,’ opinion poll says

David Bergman

Most people in Bangladesh think that the elections held on January 5 were a ‘farce’, the Awami League government lacks ‘credibility’ and that fresh elections should be held ‘soon under a non-party government,’ according to an opinion poll conducted a week after the elections.
The face-to-face survey of 1,500 randomly selected people throughout Bangladesh was undertaken between January 11 and 15 by the international organisation Democracy International working with the polling company AC Nielsen. The results were published at a press briefing on Sunday.
This is the first poll published since the elections which the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and other opposition parties boycotted. More than a half of members of parliament were elected uncontested.
The elections followed weeks of a ‘siege’ organised by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami alliance which stopped transport throughout the country.
Opposition violence resulted in the death of dozens of people, with law enforcement agencies responding by shooting dead an even greater number of protesters.
When the 1,500 respondents were asked about the elections, 57 per cent thought that the elections lacked credibility (40 per cent ‘not credible’ and 17 per cent ‘less credible’) with a similar level of people, 59 per cent, thinking that there should be fresh elections before the end of the five-year term of the government.
These figures compared to 43 per cent of respondents who thought the elections were credible (divided into 25 per cent who thought the elections were ‘highly credible’ and 18 per cent ‘credible’) and 35 per cent who thought that no new elections were required.
When respondents were also asked specifically whether they believed that the  January 5 election was a ‘farce’ (as the BNP has claimed) or instead ‘was necessary because it was conducted in line with the Bangladesh constitution’ (as the government has stated), only 41 per cent thought that it was necessary. Fifty-one per cent viewed the elections as a ‘farce.’
Most people also considered the elections to have been ‘unfair.’ Forty-eight  per cent said that they agreed with the statement that the election ‘was held unfairly, was not free and fraud had occurred everywhere’ with only 35 per cent thinking instead that it was held in a ‘free and fair manner with only minor fraud.’
The reputation of the Election Commission has, as a result, suffered with 45 per cent of people stating that it did not appear to be ‘neutral’ compared to 34 per cent who thought that it had proved itself.
The poll, however, found that 41 per cent of the respondents that lived in areas where there polling had taken place said that they had voted — a similar percentage as the one claimed by the Election Commission.
The respondents were equally divided over whether the government had legitimacy to rule the country.
Forty-two per cent of respondents thought that that government ‘will have no moral and constitutional ground to rule the country’ with the same number considering the new government to be ‘legitimate to rule the country’.
Fifty-one per cent of respondents though agreed with the statement that ‘the government should step down and a re-election under a non-party government should be held soon.’
The respondents were asked a series of questions on what the BNP and the Awami League should now do.
The results showed that most people were against the BNP conducting an ‘even greater agitation’ (55 per cent) and against ‘continuing violence’ (79 per cent) and instead were in favour of the party conducting a dialogue involving ‘compromise with the government’ (74 per cent).
An even greater number (83 per cent) also thought that the government should hold dialogue and compromise with the opposition.
Only 24 per cent of respondents thought that the government should take a ‘hardline’ against the BNP, with only 15 per cent thinking that it should arrest BNP leaders.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.

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