'Candidates gave their information to the Election Commission for the Khulna City Corporation election, but the EC did not verify this information'
Civil society organization Shujan says the Khulna City Corporation election was marred by vote rigging, irregularities, and harassment of the opposition, despite the absence of violence or untoward incidents.
“The entire election process was not transparent, free of rigging, or credible,” the organization said in a review published on Tuesday.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) arranged a press conference presenting its review of the Khulna City Corporation (KCC) election, the candidates, and the winners, at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Tuesday.
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“Candidates gave their information to the Election Commission for the Khulna City Corporation election, but the EC did not verify this information. The EC should take necessary steps about this matter and if anyone provided any false information, then legal action has to be taken against them,” said Mr M Hafizuddin Khan, president of Shujan.
“The Election Commission should make inquiries on the allegations raised about the KCC election. The commission had no control over law enforcement,” he said.
The Shujan review said, during the KCC polls there were many incidents of false ballots, ruling party activists taking control of polling centres, harassment of BNP activists and leaders from the day the schedule was announced – all of which made the election questionable.
In comparison to the last three good city elections – Narayanganj, Cumilla, and Rangpur – Khulna was an example of a nontransparent and faulty election, the review said.
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“We saw a new model of election in Khulna city – it can be called peaceful rigging. Observer groups could not work freely. Even they were controlled in different ways. The media played a brave role in the KCC election. They provided us with the real scenario of this election,” said Prof Tofail Ahmed, a local governance specialist.
“In the KCC election, there was even this unprecedented incident where a class two student voted. The Election Commission completely failed to ensure a free and fair election in Khulna city,” said journalist and columnist Syed Abul Maksud.
“The KCC election atmosphere was fearful even though there were no noticeable incidents of violence. Voter presence was very low, only 62.19%,” said Dilip Kumar Sarkar, central coordinator of Shujan.
“Besides, BNP supporters were arrested in very high numbers. The ability of the Election Commission to oversee the national election is questionable,” he said.