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‘No Vote’ : To be or not to be

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12th-Aug-2017       
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A. Mannan :
A sizeable quantum of heated exchange, though seems to be rational from each one's view point, has, of late, been generated, inter-alia, by the EC, various political parties on both side of the divide, elite/civil society, NGO's, election watchdogs on the key issue to incorporate a system of casting 'No Vote' in the upcoming national election. There is as yet no hopeful end in sight.
Conflicting arguments are pouring in as it is raining cats and dogs in a heavy monsoon. Alas! I have not seen or smelt the basics of such claims and counter-claims for and against such move within a basketful of laws normally maintainable.
However, and there is always a 'however', a critical analysis is the utmost need before one says 'yes' or 'no' on a 'no-vote' system in the light of Constitutional provisions, RPO, historical background of voting system along with the method of counting and calculation of votes for the final outcome.
Amongst others, we have got to filter and pass through for a prismatic analysis the ingredients of a 'no-vote' system for and against before making a rational and judicious approach to it. Anything else hastily done or adopted may jeopardise the whole holy effort. Let us think twice before we leap, for there is a possibility to go down on the edge an abyss.
The key points for discussion, inter-alia, may be the following:
To recognize the voting pattern and behaviour of the past records and data.
To find out modus operandi of a methodology for calculation of vote-counting and declaration of results.
How to settle the score of a tie issue to declare the winner?
Should the counting and declaration be on a 'fast past the goal post' basis or to think about a proportionate representation system or another more appropriate and logical method?
The above mentioned issues at stake may open a flood gate for dialogue and discussion amongst many stake holders as follows:
Issue of declaring cancellation of registration of political party as per the present half-hearted RPO, as it seems to be so.
That of creating bottleneck for new registration.
That of a single party (alone or with its allied parties e.g. election of 2014), and getting more than 50% of the total seats uncontested.
Difficulties to be faced in ripping the harvest of no-vote system which is, at present, a meaningless no-vote type, Actual results of votes shown in the following chart speak of the in-depth dynamics and inertia of the whole gamut.
The existing system in different segments as narrated above need be dovetailed for a harmonious solution. We all know where problem is one, its solutions are too many. The undermentioned problems and suggested solutions are of my own schools of thought, though others may have different schools of thought. They can, however, prompt and promote their ideas in order that the issue as a whole is enriched.
Our existing problems and solutions therefor may be looked for as follows:
Election system in our case is 'first past the goal post', traditionally the oldest system. Proportionate representation like that of the New Zealand type may be worthwhile to think of.
Presently, where there is a tie in the result as per the existing system it is then decided by a lottery. In football games tiebreaker has replaced the age-old lottery system. In election the lottery system may be abolished. Instead fresh election amongst only the tie holders may be held or a better alternative based on new ideas conscientiously, consciously and logically may be adopted.
In an election to a constituency where only one party participates due to a boycott by other political parties and absence of any independent candidates, the election in that constituency be held when it becomes a participatory one.
Similarly, at the evaluation stage on the validity of nomination papers when only one nomination paper remains valid, action as in (iii) above be pursued.
The actual results mentioned in the chart at (e) above have wide variations and divergence. It is, as a matter of fact, difficult and impossible to draw a statistical line of best fit even based on interpolation for a meaningful conclusion. In a sum up we may say that a proportionate representation system is likely to bring in a more competitive result in order to fulfil the aspirations of the people.
Similarly, 'no-vote' system may be fruitful provided that a fresh election is held when 'no-vote' percentage is the higher than that of the highest candidate in the election results and wins the race like that of the 'fast past the goal post'. In such a situation a fresh election is obviously needed beyond doubt. Just keeping a provision of more than 50% of the votes cast and valid for a 'no-vote' to invalidate the election results and mandate a fresh election may not be quid pro quo and will bring about no good.
Should a candidate get the highest vote he wins the race, likewise 'no-vote' should also have the privilege as that of a candidate, the difference being elected in case of a candidate and achieving authority in case of 'no-vote' to invalidate the election results for a fresh election.

(Abdul Mannan, Fcma (UK) is a  former   State Minister, Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism and Textiles.  former  Member of Parliament (Dhaka-2) and former  President, South Asian Federation of   Accountants  (SAFA). E-mail  : abdul.mannan@bengal-airlift.com)

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