• Friday, Apr 26, 2019
  • Last Update : 07:36 pm

Barisal city polls marred by irregularities

  • Published at 01:31 am July 31st, 2018
File photo: A citizen casts his vote inside a booth at a polling centre in Barisal during the city polls Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Citizens express unhappiness after failing to exercise their franchise

The Barisal City Corporation election took place on Monday amid an array of allegations of election fraud and irregularities throughout the day.

By midday, three mayoral candidates, including BNP candidate Mujibur Rahman Sarwar, boycotted the election. Later, four candidates requested the returning officer to cancel the polls, alleging vote fraud by Awami League men.

Returning Officer Mojibur Rahman rejected their request, saying the Election Commission could not stop the voting.

“There were complaints of irregularities in the morning, but by the afternoon the situation was under control,” he said. 

However, despite Mojibur's reaction to the candidate's request, results were postponed in 15 polling centres in the city corporation, while voting was permanently shut down in one polling centre shortly after balloting began.

Election officials counting votes at a polling centre in Barisal after daylong balloting in the city polls on July 30, 2018 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The first allegation of election fraud came from BNP mayoral candidate Mujibur; after casting his own vote in the morning at Syeda Mazidunnesa Secondary School polling centre, he alleged that 50 of his agents had been forced out of different polling centres. 

Witnesses later said soon after he left the centre, a number of people wearing badges of the Awami League’s boat symbol entered the centre, went into the polling booths and started stamping ballot papers. 

The presiding officer refuted the allegation when confronted; however, in the afternoon, poll authorities suspended voting at the centre for the day. 

Sources said the number of BNP agents in many polling centres were small, while in many centres there were no BNP agents at all. Most of the BNP agents moved with the BNP mayoral candidate, they said. 

Dr Manisha Chakraborty, mayoral candidate for the Socialist Party of Bangladesh, who cast her vote at Oxford Mission High School polling centre in the morning, alleged of being harassed by Awami League men at Sadar Girls' High School centre around 9am. 

Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal’s Barisal mayoral candidate Manisha Chakraborty outside a polling a centre during the city polls on July 30, 2018 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune“I saw them [the Awami League men] stuffing ballots at the polling centre. They harassed me twice when I protested,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.

 She further alleged that the presiding officer and the law enforcement personnel stationed at the centre did not stop the Awami League men from stuffing the ballots.

Islami Andolan Bangladesh's mayoral candidate Obaidur Rahman Mahbub boycotted the election around 11:35am alleging vote-rigging. Shortly afterwards, BNP mayoral candidate Sarwar announced boycotting the election at a press conference. 

Communist Party of Bangladesh's mayoral candidate Abul Kalam Azad also boycotted the election later in the day, alleging vote manipulation.

In the afternoon, mayoral candidates of BNP, Islami Andolan Bangladesh, the Socialist Party of Bangladesh, and Jatiya Party met with Returning Officer Mojibur Rahman and demanded that the election in Barisal City Corporation be cancelled. 

Meanwhile, Awami League mayoral candidate Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah, who cast his vote shortly after the election began, announced that he would accept the results, whatever it came to be.

A woman casting her vote at a polling centre during the Barisal City Corporation polls on July 30, 2018 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka TribuneVoters unhappy

Visiting several polling centres, the Dhaka Tribune found some voters unhappy.

They alleged that their votes had been cast long before they made it to the polling booths. 

A voter from Rupatali area complained that there had been no scope for voting in the Rupatali Jagua High School centre as Awami League agents allegedly took over the centre in the morning.

“They hijacked our right to vote,” he said.  

Seeking anonymity, a female voter from the same area told the Dhaka Tribune: “I could not cast my vote as they said they had run out of ballot papers in the morning.”