'This year we have experienced a new model of election in Khulna: peaceful rigging'
The Election Commission (EC) must work harder to clamp down on “peaceful rigging” and ensure the upcoming polls in three cities of the country are fair and impartial, a civil society platform said yesterday.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) called on the EC to play an “active and courageous role” to make the city polls - scheduled for July 30 in Rajshahi, Barisal and Sylhet - “acceptable to all”.
Addressing a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on Thursday, SHUJAN leaders said a new model for election fraud had emerged in the recent polls in Khulna and Gazipur.
“This year we have experienced a new model of election in Khulna: peaceful rigging,” M Hafizb Uddin Khan, the president of SHUJAN, said. “We have seen the repetition of the same model in the Gazipur elections.”
Although there was no visible violence on the day of the elections for the Gazipur City Corporation (GCC), the EC had to suspend polling at nine centres because of alleged irregularities and chaos.
M Hafizb Uddin Khan also accused the EC of failing to play a “neutral and active” role in the Khulna polls.
“Most of the time, the EC was inactive during the election, which diminished the citizens’ democratic rights to vote,” Shujan Central Secretary Dr Badiul Alam Majumder said. ''If the EC could have played its proper and neutral role, then it would not happen.''
SHUJAN leaders cited media reports of ballot paper snatching, forceful sealing of ballots, and the removal of polling agents from their centres. They also alleged unethical police attacks on protests against irregularities, the takeover of polling centres by “powerful people”, and the use of illegal funds in the polls.
“Local politicians and law enforcement agencies took charge,” M Hafizb Uddin Khan said. “There is no alternative to holding a fair, impartial, and peaceful election in a democratic system. To ensure this, EC should be more responsible about its duty.”
The SHUJAN president and secretary emphasized the importance of the EC in making the next three city polls “fair, neutral and acceptable”.
The speakers also said the candidates had not competed on a level-playing field in the build-up to the GCC polls.
They claimed the ruling party-backed candidate, Mohammad Jahangir Alam, began his extensive election campaigning preparation long before the other mayoral aspirants, who did not get scope to compete.