The ballots and polling equipment will be distributed on Sunday
The Election Commission says it is fully prepared to organize free and fair elections in Rajshahi, Barisal, and Sylhet city corporations on Monday.
Ballot papers were sent to the cities on Thursday, election officials said. The ballots and polling equipment will be distributed on Sunday.
Security has been ratcheted up.
A public holiday has been declared for the voting areas to ensure smooth balloting. Garments and other industries will be closed on Monday in the three cities.
“We took all preparations for free and fair elections. We have ensured security so that voters can exercise their franchise without fear,” EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said.
He said they would monitor surveillance footage of some vote centres from the EC Secretariat. “The presiding officials and assistant presiding officials will be in touch with us. We will instruct them from Dhaka and they will take necessary actions,” he added.
Meanwhile, the EC has formed a monitoring team with representatives of the Public Security Division and law enforcement agencies. Director General of EC’s National Identity Registration Wing Brig Gen Mohammad Saidul Islam will lead the team.
“This cell will inform EC about law and order during the election and will help to take immediate action,” Helaluddin said.
The presiding officials will notify the EC Secretariat once every two hours through mobile text messages about the situation. The commission will take immediate action if there is vote rigging or hijacking anywhere, he added.
Restriction on Elections
The EC has embargoed the movement of motor vehicles, including taxicabs, microbuses, jeeps, pick-upss, car, buses, trucks, and three-wheelers from midnight on 29 July midnight to midnight on July 30. Motorcycles will be banned from midnight on July 28 to 6am on July 31.
The entry of outsiders has been banned from midnight on July 27 till the end of elections. Campaigning will stop from July 28 (32 hours before voting) to August 1 (48 hours after the polls).
The Election Commission will deploy 35 observers – all of them EC officials – during the elections. The observers have been appointed from among senior EC officials, district, upazila, and regional election officials.
Twelve observers each will be in Rajshahi and Barisal and 11 will be deployed in Sylhet. They will start working from July 28 in plainclothes and file reports to the EC within 24 hours of the polls.
609 local and international observers
There will be 609 observers in the three cities. Among them, 592 are from 15 local agencies and 17 are from three foreign agencies including the US embassy.
In Rajshahi, there will be 192 local and seven foreign observers. In Barisal, 203 local and three foreign observers will see the situation for themselves. 197 local, and seven foreign observers will observe the Sylhet polls.
248 platoons of law enforcement agencies
To maintain law and order during the elections, 22 members of police, Ansar and VDP will be deployed at every general centre, and 24 at every risky vote centres.
During the elections, the EC will deploy 87 platoons of RAB. Thirty platoons each will be deployed in Rajshahi and Barisal and 27 platoons in Sylhet.
One platoon of RAB will be deployed in each general ward.
Forty-four platoons of border troopers will be deployed in the three cities. Fifteen platoons each will be in Rajshahi and Barisal and 14 in Sylhet. Among them, one platoon of BGB troopers have been deployed for two general wards.
Mobile and striking forces, comprised of police, Armed Police Battalion, and Ansar will be deployed in each city. Thirty platoons of mobile force and 10 platoons of striking force each will be in Rajshahi and Barisal. In Sylhet, 27 platoons of mobile force and 10 platoons of striking force will be on duty.
Executives and judicial magistrates will also be on duty during the polls.
8,601 presiding, assistant presiding and polling officers
The EC has appointed 8,601 election officers to conduct the polls. Among them, 395 are presiding officers, 2,702 assistant presiding officers and 5,404 polling officers.
In Rajshahi, 138 presiding, 1,026 assistant presiding and 2,052 polling officers will conduct the election. In Barisal, 123 presiding, 750 assistant presiding and 1,500 polling officers will be on duty.
In Sylhet, 134 presiding, 926 assistant presiding and 1,852 polling officer have been deployed.
15 EVMs to be used
The Election Commission has decided to use 15 electronic voting machines in the three cities.
Two EVMs each will be used in Rajshahi and Shylhet. In Barisal, 11 EVMs will be in use during the polls.
Earlier, the EC used an EVM in the Rangpur election, two in Khulna, and six in Gazipur elections.
Observers say the contest will be mainly between candidates of the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP. Both parties are treating the city elections as a test of popularity ahead of the national polls scheduled for December.
In Rajshahi, the ruling Awami League has picked AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, while BNP has chosen Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, as their candidates.
Others vying for the mayoral post are Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s Md Shafiqur Rahman, Bangldesh Jatiya Party’s Md Habibur Rahman, and independent candidate Md Murad Murshed.
The candidates in the Barisal polls are Awami League’s Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah, BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar, Jaitya Party’s Md Iqbal HossainTapos, BaSaD’s Dr. Manisha Chakrabarty, Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s Obaidur Rahman mahbub, Bangladesh Communist Party’s Abul Kalam Azad.
Candidates vying for Sylhet mayor’s office are Awami League’s Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, BNP’s Ariful Haque Chowdhury, Bangladesh Somajtantrik Dal’s Md Abu Jafar, Islami Andolan Bangladesh's Md Moazzem Hossain, and independent candidates Ehsanul Mahbub Jubayer, Md Ehsanul Haq Taher.
Rajshahi has 3,18,138 voters, while Barisal has 2,42,466 and Sylhet 3,21,732. Rajshahi and Barisal have 30 general and 10 reserved wards each. Sylhet has 27 general and nine reserved wards.
The number of vote centres is 395.