BNP candidates reject results, demand revote
Candidates with the ticket of the ruling party secured easy wins in the by-polls to the Dhaka 18 and Sirajganj 1 constituencies on Thursday.
Meanwhile, BNP candidates of both constituencies rejected the results of the by-elections alleging that the polls were marred by various irregularities.
Voter turnout in Dhaka 18 was a meagre 14.18%, while it was a surprising 51.76% in Sirajganj 1, according to data from the Election Commission.
In the Dhaka 18 constituency, which has 577,188 voters, Awami League-nominated Mohammad Habib Hasan bagged 75,820 votes, and his nearest rival, BNP’s SM Jahangir Hossain fetched 5,369 votes.
Returning Officer GM Sahatab Uddin declared the result after counting the votes around 8.20pm on Thursday.
The Jatiya Party's Nasir Uddin Sarkar, Gano Front's Kazi Md Shahidullah, Bangladesh Congress's Omar Faruk and PDP's Mobibullah Bahar also contested in the race.
The seat was declared vacant following the death of former home minister and senior Awami League leader Sahara Khatun. She passed away at the age of 77 while being treated at a hospital in Bangkok on July 9 this year.
Meanwhile, in the Sirajganj 1 constituency, which has 345,603 voters, Awami League nominee Tanvir Shakil Joy won the by-election.
He bagged 188,325 votes, while his rival, the BNP-nominated Selim Reza, got 468 votes.
Returning Officer Faridul Islam declared the result around 10pm on Thursday.
The Sirajganj 1 constituency fell vacant following the demise of ruling party leader Mohammad Nasim. Joy is Nasim’s son.
Nasim, who served Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in four different cabinet roles, died on June 13 this year in hospital care at the age of 72.
At least six vehicles had been set on fire in different areas of Dhaka within the span of an hour on the polling day not near the constituency.
The authorities, however, are yet to confirm whether these arson attacks were related to the election. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police have held out the assurance that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
BNP rejects by-elections
Despite being hopeful of winning the by-polls before the voting started, BNP candidate Jahangir rejected the election after voting ended at 4pm.
He also alleged that the ruling party was behind the fire attacks in Dhaka.
BNP candidate Selim Reza demanded a fresh election after rejecting the by-election to the Sirajganj 1 constituency.
He alleged that leaders and activists of the party were beaten up, the party’s agents were thrown out of polling centres, and general people were intimidated by ruling party supporters.
“Ruling party cadres seized control of 203 polling stations in the Dhaka 18 by-polls by driving out the agents of the BNP candidate within half an hour of the start of voting,” said BNP Organizing Secretary Syed Emran Saleh Prince.
Speaking to the media at the BNP’s Naya Paltan headquarters, he also claimed that the BNP candidates’ polling agents had been beaten and voters had been threatened and obstructed from going to the polling stations, reports UNB.
“The situation was similar in the Sirajganj 1 by-polls.”
According to Prince, law enforcers and polls officials “played the role of silent spectators” as the supporters of the ruling party candidates resorted to large-scale rigging. “In many cases, they facilitated the goons of the ruling party.”
Meanwhile, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said BNP participated in the elections to make them questionable and it is reflected in their words, reports BSS.
Low voter turnout
Visits to several voting centres revealed that the voter turnout was noticeably low considering the number of registered voters.
Only a handful of votes were cast at Uttara High School and College, one of the largest polling centres in the Dhaka 18 by-election, since polling began in the morning.
Dhaka Tribune found that voter presence was very small even three hours after voting began. Room 3 of the centre, which was supposed to receive votes from 412 women voters, saw its very first vote being cast some three hours after the voting process began.
Trading blame over unrest
The candidates of the Awami League and the BNP in the Dhaka 18 by-polls accused each other of attempting to create unrest at voting centres by “using outsiders”.
The Awami League’s Habib said: “He [Jahangir] has gathered outsiders. According to my information, he may create a frightful situation here by using outsiders. We have the people, we do not need any outsiders,” he added.
BNP candidate SM Jahangir also made similar allegations against Habib.
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“The Awami League candidate is trying to capture the centres by using people brought in from the neighbouring Tongi and Gazipur areas,” Jahangir told Dhaka Tribune.
Dismissing the ruling party’s allegations, Jahangir said: “Everything is under the control of the ruling party men. We cannot even enter the voting facilities .”
BNP agents hardly visible
As in several previous by-elections, polling agents of BNP were hardly seen at voting centres in Dhaka 18.
Visiting several polling centres, including Malekabanu Adarsha Bidyaniketan centre, after the polls opened in the morning, Dhaka Tribune found only four polling agents of the BNP candidates against the large number of Awami League and Jatiya Party agents.
BNP candidate Jahangir and his family are voters at this centre. Jahangir alleged that at least ten BNP voters were forced out of the centre.
Similarly, the BNP candidate for the Sirajganj 1 constituency, Selim Reza, raised the issue of not having an agent at the polling station where he had cast his vote.