Around 480 upazilas will go to polls in five phases
The Election Commission will hold the first phase of Upazila Parishad Election on March 10, the first time ever under political banners.
Elections will be held in 87 upazilas in 12 districts — under Rangpur, Mymensingh, Sylhet and Rajshahi divisions — in the first phase, the commission’s Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed told a press briefing on Sunday.
Announcing the polls schedule, he also said that aspirants will have to submit their nomination forms by February 11.
The forms will be scrutinized on February 12, and after that, candidates will have till February 19 to withdraw from the race, Helal said.
The commission plans to hold the elections to around 480 upazilas in five phases this year — starting from March 10.
The elections will be the first ones under the newly formed Awami League government that came to power through the 11th general election held on December 30 last year.
Earlier, Helal had told reporters that the upazila polls have been planned for March onwards after taking into consideration the Secondary School Certificate examinations in February, and the Higher Secondary School Certificate exams in April.
Total number may very
Election Commission Assistant Secretary Ashfaqur Rahman said elections will be held in 480 or 482 out of 492 upazilas across Bangladesh in five phases.
He said polls will not be held in around 10 upazilas due to pending cases and because several upazila parishads are still in tenure, adding that the final figure may still change.
An official with the Election Commission wishing anonymity said elections in Narayanganj Sadar upazila and Noakhali Sadar upazila cannot be held until the pending cases are settled.
The tenures of the councils in Karnafuli Upazila in Chittagong district, Lalmai and Daudkandi in Comilla, Osmani Nagar and Jagannathpur in Sylhet, Tarakanda in Mymensingh, and Bhuimara in Khagrachhari – have not exhausted yet.
Polls cannot be held in Mithapukur of Rangpur district, since the upazila has not yet held its first meeting after the December 30 elections.
Polls can be held in Fenchuganj upazila of Sylhet district because the case in the aforementioned upazila was settled. Election will take place in Sayestaganj upazila of Habiganj district as well, the official added.
In the last upazila election, polls were held in 485 upazilas in six to seven phases, with no election being held in the rest of the upazilas because of pending cases.
The increase in prices of electoral accessories has led to a rise in expenditure for the upcoming 5th upazila election.
The total expenditure would rise by Tk300 crore compared to the cost of the last upazila election.
Election Commission Senior Assistant Secretary (Budget & Finance) Enamul Haque said they are preparing the budget plan which will go up compared to last time because of price increases in electoral accessories and transportation costs.
“A total of Tk1200 crore has been allocated in the current fiscal year for the 11th general and upcoming upazila parishad elections. Of this, around Tk702 crore has been spent on the December 30 election. The remaining Tk500 crore is not sufficient to hold a large scale upazila election,” Enamul added.
Another Election Commission official involved with the process said the commission is doing paperwork to seek more funds from the Finance Ministry in February.
The cost of holding the 4th upazila election was around Tk400 crore, with estimates of it being around Tk700-800 crore this time around.
The allowance of polling officials will be increased to around Tk200 crore compared to last time’s Tk119 crore.
EVMs in 60 upazilas?
The Election Commission is considering using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in 60 Sadar upazilas, said Joint Secretary & Director (Operations), NID Registration wing, Abdul Baten.
He said no decision has yet been made on whether EVMs can be used in the rest of the upazilas.
When asked about how many EVMs will be used, the official said voters at all Sadar upazila centres will experience voting via EVM.
In the 11th general election, two EVMs were used for each of the polling centres.
Since the number of polling booths is higher in upazila polls, the number of EVM machines to be used would also be higher, he added.
The commission has already asked all its regional officers to send information regarding the last election and the first meeting of upazila parishads held before the last tenure began.
Officials of all the 10 regional offices have also been asked to provide strategies on how the appointment of presiding and polling officials should be made.
The last upazila parishad election was held in six phases in February 2014.
The Upazila Parishad Act, 1998, stipulates holding elections within 180 days from the expiry of the last parishad.