• Sunday, Dec 05, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:42 pm

All set for first ever EVM-only city polls

  • Published at 12:14 am February 1st, 2020
Dhaka City Polls
Members of the law enforcement agencies carry EVMs and other equipment to a polling centre in Dhaka on Friday, January 31. 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Four councillor candidates, including two in reserved seats, have already been elected uncontested in DSCC

Unlike every other morning, the break of dawn on Saturday promises to be something very different and important for city dwellers as they will be electing two mayors and councillors for the Dhaka South and North city corporations for the next five years. 

What makes this election different from previous ones, held at the local government and national levels, is the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all centres, the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

Voting will begin at 8am and continue without any break until 4pm. As many as 3,010,273 people will exercise their right of franchise at the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), and 2,453,194 at the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) elections.

Besides electing two mayors, voters in Dhaka North will also elect 54 ward councillors and 18 reserved women councillors. In Dhaka South, 73 ward councillors and 23 reserved women councillors will be elected. 

Four councillor candidates, including two in reserved seats, have already been elected uncontested in DSCC.

Who votes where, when 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also Awami League president, is expected to vote at the City College centre at 8am.  

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda will vote at the IET School centre of Uttara Sector-5 at 10am. 

Awami League DNCC mayoral nominee Atiqul Islam will exercise his voting rights at the Nawab Habibullah School and College centre in Uttara Sector-4 at 8am. 

His BNP counterpart Tabith Awal will vote at the Manarat International School centre in Gulshan-2 at 8am. 

Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, the Awami League DSCC mayoral candidate, will cast his ballot at the Dr Malika University College centre in Dhanmondi. But his schedule could not be confirmed till 9pm on Friday. 

BNP DSCC mayoral candidate Ishraque Hossain will vote at Shaheed Shahjahan Government Primary School at Ramkrishna Mission Road in Old Dhaka at 8am. 

Worryingly, on Saturday's voting takes place amid the Election Commission’s identifying 65% of the total polling centres as ‘important’, with additional forces being deployed there to avert any untoward situation.  

CEC urges voters to cast ballots

Hoping that the voting would be conducted "safely", the CEC urged voters to turn up at their designated polling stations and cast their ballots. 

Those assigned for polls duty, including law enforcers, will work neutrally, he reassured voters.  

Talking to reporters while inspecting the distribution of voting materials at the Dhaka Residential Model College centre on Friday, he said: “We urge voters to go to the polling centres tomorrow (Saturday) morning.” 

On voting through EVMs, he said that the presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers had been trained well regarding the use of voting machines. 

The distribution of 43 types of polls materials started from on Friday morning from 32 venues to 2,486 centres of the two city corporations and ended last night. 

“They will assist (in voting) every possible way. We also urge the voters to exercise their voting rights by using the EVMs,” he said. 

Huda continued: “We have repeatedly instructed the law enforcing agencies to perform their duties from a neutral viewpoint. The same instruction was given the presiding officers, their deputies and polling officers.”

Even the judicial magistrates working for the elections have been told to do the same, he said. 

“The vibrant electioneering by the aspirants has created a festive atmosphere. I expect tomorrow’s (Saturday) voting to be a contest, free, fair and neutral,” he added.

Responding to a query about security of voters, the CEC said: “I don’t think that voters are feeling insecure. Voters come out of their homes whenever a competitive election is held.”

‘Vulnerable’ polling stations

The Election Commission has identified 1,597 centres, covering 64.7% of the total number of polling stations in the two city polls, as risky. 

Though 50,000 law enforcers have already been assigned for the election, returning officers of DSCC and DNCC on Friday said additional forces would be deployed in the ‘risky’ centres to avoid any unwarranted incident. 

Talking to reporters at Khilgaon, DSCC Returning Officer Abdul Baten said: “We’ve identified 721 among 1,150 centres as important. The closer the election day nears, the bigger the number of such centres becomes.”

He said that the EC was using the term ‘important’ instead of ‘risky or vulnerable’-- the term the media is using in their news reports. 

“But we’ll keep an eye on the centres, alongside deploying additional forces,” he concluded.

The returning officer said all preparations were complete as voting materials were sent by (Friday) last night, and the EVMs would be made ready for the voting on Saturday morning. 

DNCC Returning Officer Abul Quashem said that out of 1,318 centres in the city corporation, 876 centres were risky. 

At the general centres, there would be 16 law enforcers while two more lawmen will be assigned at the ‘risky’ centres, he said. 

2 members from the armed forces at each centre

Director General of the National Identity Registration (NID) wing of the EC Brigadier General Saidul Islam told reporters at the EC on Friday that a team comprising two members of the armed forces would provide technical support in the course of the voting. 

Altogether 5,015 personnel of the army, navy, air force and coast guard will be on duty but they will not engage in any action related to law and order, he maintained.  

Claiming to have completed all kind of preparations for a fair election, he said: “We’re committed to holding a free and acceptable election. 

"35,000 EVMs have been used for mock voting and 45,770 polling agents have been trained for conducting fair elections," he mentioned.

 "Neither the presiding officer nor the assistant presiding officer can vote. But presiding officers can assist 1% of voters to cast their votes. However, presiding officers will have to take permission from the EC to assist more people afterwards," he said.

The EC official said the election results would be released in the presence of all polling agents, possibly from 4:30pm. 

Printed copies of the results will be given to each of the candidates' agents and then, the results will be sent to the respective returning officers.

DMP decides not to do overact 

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam said senior officers of the force stationed in the capital had been instructed to work impartially and not cross the line.

All DMP deputy commissioners had been thus instructed, he told reporters, adding that the policemen were also told to be strict while on polls duty.

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