40-40 politics

Posted in politics by jrahman on January 19, 2011

Couple of weeks ago, I said I was going to look out for elections that ‘are Bangladeshi equivalent of the US mid-term or state elections in Indian (and other federal) systems’.  Since then, one set of elections — to 236 municipal councils — has taken place.  According to media reports, the opposition BNP has done remarkably well, winning most mayor posts in the northern and southwestern parts of the country.  Awami League has won most posts in the southern and central districts.

If these elections were indeed a mid-term parliamentary poll, what would the final tally be?   I crunch some rough-and-ready number over the fold: short answer is that it would have been the closest election in Bangladesh’s history, with AL getting 130 seats against BNP’s 118 (out of 269 seats).

In addition to how the numbers are derived, I note some observations over the fold.

Firstly, we should congratulate the Election Commission for making a treasure trove of data available.  All the municipal election results can be found here.  Parliamentary election results are here (with centre level details here).  In December 2008, Syeed Ahamed and I wrote a series of articles demanding that these data are made available in real time (see here).

It’s very good to see that the Election Commission is making these data available.  Detection of irregularity and manipulation is much, much easier with the data.  And accusations are that much more credible when backed up with rigour.

And one can crunch these numbers to analyse who gets elected and why, and the political discourse would improve manifold.  However, I do something much simpler and basic.  I map a district’s municipal poll results on the parliamentary seats from that district.  Thus, for example, I take the 8 municipalities in Tangail, note that the results were AL 6 – BNP 2, and apportion the 8 parliamentary seats in the district accordingly.

Get the idea?

Of course, this is a very quick-and-dirty way of transposing the local government election on parliamentary seats.  We could use the detailed data above, and do the same analysis more rigorously, running econometric models.  I hope someone has a crack (or give me a research grant to do it).  Until then, my rough numbers will have to do.

So, what would be the tally if this is done?  AL 130, BNP 118, JP 5, JI 5, LDP 1, independent 10.

Wait, that comes to 269 seats —what about the other 31?  Well, no elections took place in Magura (2 seats), Gazipur (5 seats) and Cox’s Bazar (4 seats).  Plus, Dhaka city has 15 seats, and 5 more in Chittagong.  ), so we need some rule to apportion these 31 seats.

Given the CCC election a few months ago, I give 5 Chittagong city seats to BNP.  I allocate the rest of the  seats on the basis of what happened in the neighbouring districts.

I should also note that whenever rounding was an issue, I rounded AL up.

With these adjustments, we can get a full picture.  As the table below shows, BNP with 141 seats would have the slightest possible lead over AL’s 138.

Forget all the talk of permanent Awami majority or BNP being finished.  Bangladesh today is divided as evenly as it was in 2001.  Exactly how evenly?

Consider this scatter plot, which shows the relationship between the percentage of votes won against the number of seats won.

Obviously, first-past-the-post system and electoral arithmetic of alliance means that in 2001, BNP could get three times more seat than AL with very similar share of votes.  Similar factors explain why BNP did so poorly in 2008 despite winning more votes than it did in 1991.  Nonetheless, there is a significant positive relationship that we can exploit to guess what the two parties’ relative vote shares might be.

It turns out that plugging in the numbers give both parties support of 39% of voters.  Remarkably, the latest DS-Nielsen poll showed similar support for AL.  But the same poll showed a much weaker support for BNP.  As I said here, ‘Unless four in five of this last category breaks for BNP, this poll suggests that AL would have won a comfortable victory.’

What’s going on?

Well, it seems that the undecideds broke for BNP in the municipal polls.

I should note that in 2001 election, AL won 40% of votes against BNP’s 41%.

Taken all this together, I would summarise the state of politics in Bangladesh as split evenly 40% between the two sides.

A number of questions I’d like to know the answers to.

First, what underpins BNP’s revival?  Is it just protest vote?  Or is BNP taking active steps?  I believe it is the latter (as noted here).  But I’d like to know more.  Particularly, if the party is taking active steps at regeneration, who’s driving it?  Did these predictions come true?  Are these stories right?

Second, there is a meme going around that the results are explained by the rebel factor — AL had more rebel candidates and votes were split.  I don’t believe this is true — quick calculation through Prothom Alo reports show both sides have rebel candidates.  More importantly, is there any reason to believe that there were more rebels in these elections than previous municipal elections?  Correspondence with people who know about these things suggest that winning rebels will be embraced by their parties once the dust settles.  So how big a deal the rebel issue really is?

Third, Prothom Alo report shows quite a few Hindu winners,  spread across the country, and from both parties.  This is after the large swing against the AL candidate in CCC.  Could there be some realignment going on among this demographics that has traditionally been considered safe-AL voters (particularly given the persecution post-2001 election)?

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  1. tacit said, on January 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Jyoti Bhai, this is an excellent post. I would like to add some caveats. I think there are at least twenty seats, for which the result of the municipal elections are not accurate predictors of their voting pattern in the next parliamentary election. BNP won just one out of the eleven municipalties in Rajshahi, but I think they’ll win all six seats in Rajshahi next time. AL lost all the municipalties in the constituency of the Chief Whip in Moulovibazar, which AL will still win, without any doubt, in the next election. So, some adjustment is probably necessary. But overall, your results are quite interesting.

    • jrahman said, on January 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks for the caveat. What this kind of analysis shows more than anything else is just how close the next election might be. On the one hand, this is a good thing — since both parties are evenly divided, there could be a MAD effect. On the other hand, can we handle a MAD effect?

  2. 40-40 Politics 2 « Mukti said, on January 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    […] all the municipalities done, the 40-40 (or 140-140) prognosis of Bangladesh politics is still holding.  Three points need to be […]

  3. Rumi said, on January 29, 2011 at 8:22 am

    In recently concluded Habiganj bye election, 15 to 20% Hindu vote went for BNP candidate and in many Hindu areas, BNP candidate won.

    • jrahman said, on January 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Didn’t the BNP candidate get a lot of Hindu votes in CCC as well? In the municipality elections, a number of Hindu candidates won mayor and councilor positions from BNP — though I have no idea whether these were in Hindu dominated areas.

      In the long run, if BNP becomes a more tolerant party and is accepted by religious and ethnic minorities, that would be good for both BNP and Bangladesh.

  4. On Meherjaan « Tahrir said, on February 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

    […] bhai’s — we are sleepwalking into a financial crisis, inflation is about to get worse, politics is heating up, fatwa is being legitimised, the India policy in tatters.  But what’s […]

  5. On Meherjaan said, on February 13, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    […] bhai’s — we are sleepwalking into a financial crisis, inflation is about to get worse, politics is heating up, fatwa is being legitimised, the India policy in tatters.  But what’s […]

  6. […] What Rehman is proposing is best practised by Moudud Ahmed, who has made himself invisible in all the legal-constitutional debates over the past year.  The implied tactics for BNP is simple: duck and cover, don’t say anything, don’t get arrested, let AL hang itself with its own ropes.  And Moudud’s passivity is complemented by Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir’s behind-the-scene work which produced a stunning set of results in the local government elections in January. […]

  7. Winners and losers in NCC « Mukti said, on October 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    […] a win in Chittagong last year, and demonstrated its resurgence in municipality and by-elections in January.  Given the split in AL, one might think BNP could take a serious shot.  But then again, if it […]

  8. The Madam’s gambit « Mukti said, on November 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    […] BNP is in a bind.  It has demonstrated that it can be within a whisker of a victory if there is a free and fair election in 2013.  But […]

  9. Polls confirm 40-40 politics « Mukti said, on January 8, 2012 at 10:50 am

    […] The Bangla paper has a bigger sample, the English one employs a more experienced agency.  Which one to believe? Considering the margin of errors around these polls, it would be reasonable to put each party’s support at about 40% (two-fifths — I’ll use fraction in what follows) — pretty much where they were a year ago. […]

  10. How soon is now? « Mukti said, on June 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    […] have demonstrated their willingness to ‘throw the bums out’ — I analysed the 40-40 politics back in January 2011, and a year later the polls confirmed […]

  11. […] Islam Alamgir, it has shaken up its grass root organisation, which bested AL across the country in January 2011.  In fact, BNP’s rejuvenation should have been noticeable over two years ago.  Too bad that […]

  12. On the new opinion polls « Mukti said, on January 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

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