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ELECTIONS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN BANGLADESH
The continuity of democracy is maintained by conducting election. Apart from Covid-19 pandemic Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) have been conducting election taking some extra precautionary measures. These includes maintaining health code for polling officials and voters. At the same time plans have beentaken to prevent the pandemic from spreading due to the election.
BEC has been continuously conducting national and local bodies elections, following COVID-19 health guidelines. After outbreak of COVID-19 in Bangladesh in March 2020 BEC has so far conducted elections of approximately 400 national and local bodies including 10 constituencies of national parliament. Initially in some cases, it also hampered the process and needed to defer election time under the legal provision.
BEC never compromise with the health hazard of any electoral officials as well as voters. In every cycle of electoral process BEC issues the instructions to strictly follow health guidelines. So far there is no report of incident that electoral officials infected with covid due to election duty.
Amidst Covid 19 pandemic, BEC conducted 10 Parliamentary by-elections: Gaibandha-3, Bagerhat-4 & Dhaka-3, Dhaka-5, Dhaka-18, Pabna-4, Naogaon-6, Sirajgonj-1, Jashore-6, and Bogra-1. Besides general and by-elections in different post of 354 Union Parishad, 13 Upazilaparishad, 17 Zilaparishad and 11 Municipalities elections were held till mid-November 2020.
Voters' turnout of these elections was more than 65% on an average. Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) were used in the parliamentary by-elections of Dhaka-3, Dhaka-5, Dhaka-18 and Sirajginj-1constituencies andsome local bodies elections. Initially Negative campaign had taken place against the use of EVM with plea that touching a machine by finger would help spread the Corona virus among the voters. It had causeda poor turnout in some cases.
BEC has setup Standard of Operations for the election conducting officials conducive in a pandemic situation. BEC has taken a widespread publicity activity on COVID-19 health guideline through Electronic media, social medias, newspaper advertise. Leaflets were distributed among the voters, poster, banner festoons were hanged in different strategic points of electoral area including polling stations.
BEC has to conduct the election in the face of various challenges. On top of this, BEC has been relentlessly conducting elections at various levels to keep the democratic process afloat by tackling challenges like the epidemic Covid-19.