• Friday, Sep 21, 2018
  • Last Update : 07:16 am

Rajshahi votes peacefully but allegations of fraud persist

  • Published at 11:48 pm July 30th, 2018
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A voter prepares to cast his vote at a polling centre in Rajshahi during the city corporation polls on Monday, July 30, 2018 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Mayoral candidates of BNP and Islami Andolan Bangladesh claim there has been massive irregularities during the vote

Rajshahi City Corporation voted peacefully on Monday, as the Election Commission saw no reason to shut down or suspend polling at any polling centre.

There were no reports of violence at any of the polling centres in the northern city.

A shortage of ballot papers did cause problems at some polling centres, sources on the ground told the Dhaka Tribune. Voters complained about having to wait for hours outside the polling centres.

Balloting was temporarily put on hold at the Islamia Degree College centre in Rajshahi's Binodpur area because of a shortage of ballot papers.

However, when asked about the shortage of ballot papers, the presiding officer at the polling centre, Abdullahil Shafi, refused to comment.

“I do not want to talk about it,” he said.

A long line of voters was seen at the Khademul Islam Government Primary School centre. One of the voters, Mosharraf Hossain, said he had been waiting for two hours on the same spot, with no sign of the line moving.

When asked about it, the centre's presiding officer Azad Masud said: “Security checking of the voters has been intensified as we have received information that some of them are carrying hidden cameras, which is why it is taking longer.”

BNP mayoral candidate Mohammad Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul and Islami Andolan Bangladesh mayoral candidate Shafiqul Islam claimed there had been massive irregularities during vote casting.

Female voters seen standing in a line outside a polling centre in Rajshahi during the city polls on July 30, 2018 | Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Bulbul said BNP polling agents had been barred from entering polling centres by the Awami League men, and Shafiqul complained about vote rigging.

However, Awami League mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton said there had been nothing out of place and the voting had gone peacefully.

“The voting has been conducted peacefully,” said Liton, who cast his vote at the Satellite Town High School polling centre. “I hope the people will elect me, but I will accept whatever their decision is.”

He also requested the law enforcement agencies to ensure a peaceful voting environment across the city corporation.

Bulbul refrains from voting, claims election fraud

In a rare move in Bangladesh's politics, BNP candidate Bulbul refrained from casting his vote in protest of alleged vote rigging and conducted a sit-in demonstration in front of the Islamia Degree College polling centre.

“Not even 20% voters have come to the polling centres, but over 50% of the ballots have been cast. I have never seen an election with this much fraud,” Bulbul told reporters. “I will not cast my vote, as this is not a fair election.”

He further claimed BNP polling agents had been thrown out of the polling centres by Awami League men.

Sources in BNP said their polling agents could not enter Siroil Government High School polling centre until Bulbul himself went to the centre around 10:30am.

At Jatiya Tarun Sangha Government Primary School, nine of the 10 BNP polling agents were allegedly thrown out by Awami League activists.

When Bulbul went to the centre and asked the presiding officer about his agents, the presiding officer said the BNP agents had been around before and he did not know where they had gone.

BNP’s mayoral candidate for Rajshahi City Corporation Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul sitting on the ground outside the city's Islamia Degree College polling centre in protest against reported vote rigging and gross irregularities on July 30, 2018 | Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Later, during a press briefing, Bulbul rejected the election and demanded that the entire Election Commission resign. “This was not a fairly held election,” he added.

Islami Andolan candidate Shafiqul alleged that massive vote rigging had taken place.

“Votes were rigged at Wards 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. “A group people entered the polling centres and put seals on the ballot papers.”

Journalists barred from polling centres

Journalists were barred by police from entering some polling centres in Rajshahi City Corporation, who cited instructions from presiding officers.

Police barred Dhaka Tribune reporters at Dashmari High School polling centre in Ward 29, Upashahar Model Government Primary School centre in Ward 17, and Shishu Niketon Madhyamik Balika Bidyalay centres.

When asked why, SM Nazmul Kamal, presiding officer at Shishu Niketon Madhyamik Balika Bidyalay, said journalists were not allowed to enter the polling booths.