Image: Possible votes on Jan 5.
Post-election poll funded by USAID and DFID and carried out by US based Democracy International (DI) shows Awami League would have won the January 5 elections with at least a 5.8% margin even if BNP-Jamaat had participated. The poll surveyed 2544 citizens nationwide between January 11 to January 15 and was conducted independently of any political party. 42.7% said they would have voted for AL and another 0.1% for our Mohajote alliance while 35.1% said they would have voted for BNP, another 1.6% for Jamaat-e-Islami and 0.3% for their 4 party alliance.
This is in contradiction to all polls conducted prior to the elections except for two; on December 3 I had posted on my Facebook page the correctly weighted results of a poll conducted jointly by AL and DI which showed AL at 39.6% and BNP at 34.2%. The AL’s own large sample poll conducted in November, which we never publicized, showed AL at 38%, BNP at 36%. Both of these are consistent with this post-election poll conducted by DI on its own.
This poll also validates the official voter turnout number as 40.7% of respondents from the 147 constituencies where elections were held said they voted. The official Election Commission number is 39.8%.
Another 10.3% refused to reveal who they would have voted for and 5.1% were still undecided, but the data uncovers another significant indicator. Among respondents from the 147 constituencies where voting was held 12% said they wanted to vote but did not because they felt unsafe. This was due to the violence caused by BNP-Jamaat on election day where they attacked election officials and burnt down several hundred polling centers. This means that despite the BNP-Jamaat’s boycott, if they themselves had not caused violence voter turnout would have been about 52%.
This additional 12% vote would not be for the BNP-Jamaat as they were not participating. Only 4.4% of total respondents in this poll said they would have voted for Jatiya Party and/or other parties and independents. 4.4% of the 12% who would have voted is just 0.5%. Most of the remaining 11.5% of the vote would have gone to the Awami League. The clear conclusion from this poll is that the Awami League would have received somewhere between 42.7% to 54.2% of the total vote in this election, regardless of BNP-Jamaat’s participation.
I would like to draw attention to two particular groups who made wildly incorrect statements about these elections. A few western embassies and several media outlets claimed voter turnout was either as low as 20% or as high as 30% at the most. They did so without conducting any actual survey or count whatsoever and based simply on guesswork and rumors.
Even more disturbing, without evidence a few members of these groups claimed that the voter turnout figure was inflated by the Election Commission and/or ballot stuffing by Awami League activists. This poll conducted randomly and independently by a US organization and paid for by the US and British governments matches the Election Commission’s voter turnout number almost exactly.
These western diplomats and the media that made these false accusations owe the Election Commission, the Awami League and the people of Bangladesh an apology. Since they were so quick to issue incorrect public statements on the voter turnout they should at least have the decency to issue statements that their previous claims were wrong. Otherwise, it would indicate they deliberately wished to discredit our elections.
Another issue I would like to draw your attention to are the polls conducted prior to the elections by various groups, mostly Bangladesh media. In particular I want to call out the polls conducted by the two largest newspapers in Bangladesh, Prothom Alo and Daily Star. Both of their polls showed the BNP receiving 50-55% of the vote and the AL receiving just between 25-30%. These polls were not just a little inaccurate, they were wildly off the mark.
They also disregard a few simple historical facts. The AL has always received more than 30% of the vote while the BNP has never received more than 40%. In fact the only party that has ever received more than 40% is the AL. No party has ever received 50% of the vote but the AL has come the closest at 49% in the 2008 elections. These facts alone should have indicated that their polls could not be accurate.
The Prothom Alo and Daily Star polls clearly have no clue on how to conduct polling. Either that, or they deliberately skewed their polls as they were repeatedly demanding these elections not be held. As polls affect public opinion, which has a direct influence on elections and indeed democracy, this should be investigated.
Note: This is originally posted at writer’s Facebook page.
Sajeeb Wazed: IT consultant and political campaigner.