• Tuesday, May 11, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:42 am

Voting in third phase municipality elections ends amid sporadic violence, boycotts

  • Published at 08:59 am January 30th, 2021
female-voters-election-municipality-Naogaon
A number of female voters turned up to cast their ballots for municipality elections in Naogaon on Saturday, January 30, 2020 Dhaka Tribune

Voter turnout, in most parts, was satisfactory, but, there have been reports of vote-rigging, polling centre domination leading to candidates boycotting the polls

The third phase election to 62 municipalities across Bangladesh has concluded with reports of sporadic violence, clashes between opposing activists and boycotts by candidates.

People started casting their votes from 8am on Saturday. Voting continued till 4pm.

Voter turnout, in most parts, was satisfactory as citizens were seemingly able to exercise their rights to franchise peacefully. 

However, there have been reports of clashes, vote-rigging and polling centre domination leading to a boycott of the polls.

In Lakshmipur, three people were shot and 20 others were injured in election-related violence.

Ward no 6 aspirants Anwar Hossain and Mamunur Rashid’s supporters clashed over taking control of Kajirkhil Government Primary School polling centre around noon. Locals said Anwar’s supporters started firing shots. 

DIG of police Anwar Hossain said the law enforcers took control of the situation promptly, adding that legal action would be taken against those involved.

In Feni, two BNP councillor candidates of Ward-14 -- Noor islam and Tajul Islam Pavel -- came under attack from a group near Rampur-Sayeedi Poura School Centre around 9:00am. 

Several crude bombs exploded near the school and some other centres, creating panic among voters.

Another BNP candidate Alaluddin boycotted the election, claiming that ruling party men had intimidated voters, driven out BNP agents and also tried to occupy centres.

In Satkhira, BNP candidate Sheikh Sharifuzzaman Tuhin and BNP rebel candidate Nargis Sultana boycotted the polls in Kalaroa municipality, alleging vote-rigging this afternoon.

Tuhin and Nargis both made allegations of widespread vote-rigging, saying their agents were not allowed to enter any of the polling centres. 

However, District Election and Returning Officer Nazmul Kabir said he had not received any verbal or written allegations of vote irregularities from any candidate.

In Natore, BNP candidate Taizul Islam boycotted the polls in Singra municipality alleging ballot stuffing, among other irregularities.  

Upazila BNP Convener Dauder Mahmud alleged that AL-backed agents had publicly stuffed ballots in the presence of the presiding officer at several polling centres. “Moreover, BNP agents were expelled from centres and the local administration did nothing to stop it.”

In Bogra, BNP's mayoral candidate of Shibganj municipality Motiar Rahman Motin also boycotted the election, saying that ruling party men had occupied the centres and snatched votes, driving out his agents.

He claimed that supporters of Awami League candidate Touhidur Rahman were barring BNP supporters from entering the centres.

In Tangail, a clash took place between supporters of two councillor candidates in Bhuapur municipality which left ten people, including a woman, injured at Kutubpur Government Primary School around 11:15am.

Shahinul Islam, presiding officer in charge of the ward, said following the clash law enforcers brought the situation under control. “Voting had to be stopped for 30-35 minutes because of the incident.”

Meanwhile, police arrested Taherul Islam Tota, acting general secretary of the Upazila Awami League, on charges of occupying the polling centre and disrupting the elections.

He was arrested at Tepibari High School in Ward 2 of the municipality around 2:30pm, Tangail Additional Superintendent of Police Kazi Nusrat Edib Luna confirmed.

In Moulvibazar, BNP leader Faizul Karim Mayun was seen casting his vote although the BNP-backed candidate Oliur Rahman boycotted the polls claiming there was no conducive environment for election.

According to the media present at the site, Faizul Karim Mayun entered the polling station and cast his vote. However the BNP leader denied the claim.

In Pabna, a chase and counter chase took place between Jubo League activists  and law enforcement officials near Jubilee pond area.

A clash took place when personnel of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) tried to disperse the crowd gathered near the centre, Pabna Sadar police station OC Nasim Ahmed confirmed.

In Barguna, six people were detained by the police for casting fake votes in the Barguna municipal elections.

Executive Magistrate Ariful Nizami said police detained the six people when they tried to cast their votes by showing fake identities. Legal action will be taken against them after the polls.

In Mymensingh, four people – three incumbent and former union parishad (UP) chairmen and a local Chhatra League – were arrested for allegedly snatching ballots in Mymensingh's Gouripur municipality election, Executive Magistrate Maidul Islam confirmed. 

Meanwhile, two journalists were beaten and their camera was vandalized when they went to take pictures during the clash between the supporters of the two mayoral candidates.

In Jamalpur, the presiding officer of a centre was arrested for assisting in the casting of fake votes by giving 1,000 ballot papers to miscreants in the Sarishabari municipality election. 

Upazila Election Officer Maksud Alam said the authorities had suspended polling at the centre following the incident. 

Sarishabari police station OC Abu Fazlul Karim said the presiding officer and another person were arrested in this connection.

In the third round of elections, voters were stamping ballot papers to choose their representatives even though electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used in the first and second phases of municipality polls. 

Tight security along with strict measures was taken to ensure free, fair and peaceful balloting, according to the Election Commission.

Although elections were supposed to be held in 63 municipalities, polling was no longer needed in Laksam municipality of Comilla as all the candidates – a mayor, nine councillors and three reserved seat councillors – in that municipality were elected without contest after their rivals withdrew their candidacies. 

Apart from this, two mayors and 16 councillors, as well as six reserved seat councillors, have won unopposed in different municipalities, as either their rivals withdrew their candidacies or were eliminated in the selection process.

With these winners, the total number of candidates is 3,344. Of them, 229 are vying for mayoral posts, 2,360 for councillor posts and 755 for reserved seats. 

The 63 municipalities are: Hakimpur in Dinajpur, Jaldhaka in Nilphamari, Ulipur in Kurigram, Gobindaganj in Gaibandha, Dhunat, Shibganj, Gabtoli, Kahalu, and Nandigram of Bogra, Rohonpur in Chapainawabganj, Sadar and Dhamoirhat in Naogaon, Mundumala and Kehorhat in Rajshahi, Singra in Natore, Pabna Sadar, Sadar and Dharshana in Chuadanga, Harinakundu and Kotchandpur in Jhenaidah, Manirampur in Jessore, Sadar and Kalia in Narail, Morrelganj in Bagerhat, Paikgacha in Khulna, Kalaroa in Satkhira, Sadar and Pathargata in Barguna, Borhanuddin and Dowlatkhan in Bhola, Gournadi and Mehendiganj in Barisal, Nalchiti in Jalokathi, Sarupkathi in Pirojpur, Sadar, Mirzapur, Bhuapur, Shakhipur and Madhupur in Tangail, Sharishabari in Jamalpur, Nakla and Nalitabari in Sherpur, Bhaluka, Gouripur and Ishwarganj in Mymensingh, Durgapur in Netrokona, Katiadi in Kishoreganj, Munshiganj Sadar, Pangsha in Rajbari, Tungipara in Gopalganj, Naria, Bhedorganj and Jajira in Shariatpur, Golapganj and Jakiganj in Sylhet, Moulvibazar Sadar, Barura and Chauddagram in Comilla, Haziganj in Chandpur, Feni Sadar, Hatia and Chowmuhani in Noakhali, and Ramganj in Lakshmipur.

The election to Sujanagar municipality in Pabna was postponed on Thursday.

The country has a total of 329 municipalities. In the first phase, polls were held in 24 municipalities on December 28. In the second phase, polls were held in 60 municipalities on January 16.

In the fourth phase, elections will be held in 56 municipalities on February 14 and polls in the remaining 31 municipalities will be held in the fifth phase on February 28.

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