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Millions of False Voters in Bangladesh
Study by U.S.-based group finds serious flaws with registration list
Golam Mustofa Sarowar (Golam)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-03 12:29 (KST)   
The U.S.-based research organization National Democratic Institute (NDI), in its newest survey report released on Saturday, identified that roughly 12.20 million, or 13 percent, of the names on the existing Bangladesh voter list are either false or duplicate. NDI expressed its concern over an adequate election if the voter roll is not corrected.

"Duplicate registration means excess ballots and it carries the risk of excess ballots in polling centers," NDI resident director in Dhaka Owen Lippert told a press conference at a city hotel yesterday.

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Expressing serious concern over the size of registered voters on the new voter list, he said, "The (NDI) delegation is deeply concerned that the new voter list runs to over 93 million names, a size that is substantially inconsistent with the 2001 census data... A voter roll containing two-thirds of the population strains credibility."

He, however, said that a free and fair election, within the stipulated 90-day timeframe, is very much possible if the erroneous or duplicate registration is compensated by other measures.

"With improvements, the current voter list could contribute to a credible election process... Nonetheless, an accumulation of risk factors, such as excess ballots and clerical error, could lead to a situation where a potentially acceptable election result may not be perceived as credible," the NDI report, entitled "Second Survey on the Integrity of the Voter List," opined.

Giving a breakdown of the total 13 percent error in the existing voter roll, the survey report said there are about six percent excess names (names on the list that should not be there) in the roll, while the remaining seven percent are duplicate names (names that are on the list twice or more).

Apart from this, the NDI also identified that there are approximately 2.5 percent of names missing from the voter list.

"One out of every sixteen names listed on the voter list are incorrect while one out of fourteen names is listed twice or more," the report said, adding that one out of forty eligible voters is not registered on the voter list, a small percentage by international standards.

The NDI, as part of its ongoing efforts to promote free and fair elections, in October this year conducted the statistically rigorous survey of the current voter list. The first survey was released in August last year. The NDI, during the survey, checked more than 22,000 names across the country and interviewed 11,000 people from 37 villages or local areas.

According to the NDI report, 54 percent of all excess names are in rural areas while 28 percent are in Stastical Metropolitan Areas and 18 percent are in urban areas. It also identified migration as a major source of error on the updated voter roll.

"The sequences of the lists needed to be examined and corrected by the Election Commission (EC) and regional authorities," it said, adding, "Deficiencies in the voter list can be compensated for if other parts of the electoral process run fairly and efficiently."

It also called upon all people to come forward to correct the voter list, saying, "The responsibility for a credible election lies not only with the EC but also with the Caretaker government, public administration, political parties and ultimately the citizens of Bangladesh."

In an immediate reaction, BNP claimed that the erroneous or duplicate voters in the existing voter rolls are inherited from the previous ones listed in 2001 during the then Awami League (AL) government's tenure.

AL chief Sheikh Hasina's political secretary Saber Hossain Chowdhury, accusing the BNP and "partisan" Election Commission of the "misdeed," said, "They just do it to manipulate the election results."

Riaz Rahman, former adviser to the foreign ministry during the last BNP-led alliance government, said, "We have to see whether there is any attempt on the part of BNP or Election Commission to manipulate the voter list."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Golam Mustofa Sarowar

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