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EC: ‘Not concerned’ about low voter turnout in upazila polls

  • Published at 11:36 pm March 24th, 2019
File photo of Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed Focus Bangla

EC expects a 40%-45% voter turnout in the third upazila polls

Election Commission Secretary, Helal Uddin Ahmed, has said the commission’s priority is to hold “peaceful voting,” and not to worry about voter turnout.

He made the comment after the third phase of upazila elections ended with a low voter turnout on Sunday. 

“Percentage is not a matter. The commission is not concerned about voter turnout; rather, peaceful balloting is our mandate,” Helal said, after polls closed at over 100 upazilas.

He further said, the low turnout was natural as one of the political alliances boycotted the elections.

Asked about the credibility of the elections due to a fewer number of voters, the Election Commission secretary said: “There is no provision in the law stipulating a minimum voter turnout.”

“The voter turnout in phase one stood at 43% and we expect it to surpass 45% in the second phase. For the third phase we expect it to be between 40-45%.”

Helal also said: “117 upazilas were supposed to go to polls, but voting in Kishoreganj’s Katiadi upazila was suspended.

“The additional superintendent of police and the officer-in-charge of local police were also withdrawn as well, as an inquiry was opened.”

Voting at all 89 centres in Katiadi were suspended two hours after polls opened on allegations of ballot stuffing the night before.

Apart from Katiadi, voting at 14 polling stations out of the nearly 9,300, was suspended on Sunday due to irregularities, said the Election commission secretary.

Low voter turnout in 3rd phase upazila polls

The majority of voting centres in 117 upazilas of the country have witnessed low voter attendance after the third phase upazila elections ended on Sunday.

The balloting began at 8am and continued till 4pm, without any breaks.

Several people in Cox’s bazaar, and a policeman at a Chittagong voting centre, were shot in separate clashes between supporters of rival candidates. 

Moreover, the Election Commission suspended voting iat all polling centres of Katiadi upazila in Kishoreganj, following allegations of irregularities. 

Also Read- Third phase of upazila polls marred by poor turnout, violence

In Barisal, voter turnout was seen to be very low at the polling centres of seven upazilas.

At some centres, there were no queues of voters. However, election officials declined to comment on the matter. 

According to sources at the returning officer’s office, voting took place in seven of the nine upazilas of Barisal, with candidates at the other two getting elected unopposed.

In Gazipur, there were no voters at most voting centres in Sreepur upazila till midday. However, a noticeable number of female voters were seen at some centres. 

At a voting centre at Mulaidi Primary School in Telihati union, Presiding Officer Helaluddin Ahmed was seen sitting idly on the school balcony. 

When asked, he said: “One and a half hours have passed but no one has turned up to cast their ballot yet.”      

In Satkhira, most of the 597 centres in seven upazilas witnessed a low voter turnout. 

Although the polling officials and returning officers had expressed hope for a better turnout, the situation remained unchanged throughout the day.

Many have claimed that a lack of strong opposition candidates has left voters uninterested in casting their vote in the polls.    

In Kushtia, balloting took place at 611 voting centres, and voter turnout was relatively low in this district as well. 

Firoza Parvin, presiding officer of the centre at Kushtia Mirpur Pilot High School, said: “Only 247 votes were cast as of 11am. However, the voting environment at the centre was peaceful.”

Md Abdul Hannan, presiding officer of the centre at Chithlia Union Primary School, said: “We have 2,180 eligible voters inat this centre. However, only 20% of votes were cast altogether.

Additional reporting done by: Md Kudrote Khoda Shobuj, Kushtia; Md Asaduzzaman Sarder, Satkhira; Raihanul Islam Akand, Gazipur; Anisur Rahman Swapan, Barisal

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