The day of Khulna City Corporation (KCC) election passed without any major violence, although scattered irregularities were reported at some centres.
The Election Commission cancelled the votes in three of the 289 polling centres on Tuesday during the voting.
BNP mayor candidate Nazrul Islam Monju claimed that ruling party men had driven out his agents from at least 30 polling centres.
However, Talukder Abdul Khaleque, Awami League mayor candidate, denied the allegation saying voting was held in a peaceful manner.
Monju’s Media Coordinator GM Rasel claimed: “Awami League supporters vandalized some polling centres including the Zohra Khatun School, Boala Ideal Secondary School Moila Sonakota, and Gani School.”
Votes were scrapped at Fatema High School, Hijolnagar Secondary School and Iqbal Nagar Girls School centres, after finding incidents of vote rigging, Returning Officer Yunus Ali told the press.
After the booths closed at 4pm, the Election Commission said the polls were free, fair and peaceful.
“Cancellation of three polling centres and minor vandalism are not significant out of 289 centres,” Election Commission Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed told reporters in Dhaka.
Voting began from 8am in the city. Nazrul Islam Monju cast his vote at the Rahima Government Primary School centre and Khaleque at the Government Pioneer Girls High School.
Polling officers started counting votes soon after the election ended and the ruling party candidate took an early lead.
While the atmosphere was cheerful in the centres throughout the morning, with long lines of voters, the scenario changed somewhat in the afternoon. In several centres, BNP raised allegations of their agents being thrown out and false ballots being cast.
BNP activists began protesting around the city.
Monju’s Media Coordinator GM Rasel claimed: “All our polling agents have been driven away from all the centres under Ward No 31.”
Presiding Officer Sirajul Islam however, said all the agents in the centres reported to him and no one was missing.
A member of the Election Commission observer team was reportedly attacked in the city.
The attack took place at Nurani Bahumukhi Madrasa Biddaloy polling centre around 9:50am, an EC official told the Dhaka Tribune.
It was not immediately clear why the EC observer was attacked by the yet unidentified assailants.
A female voter at PTI polling centre claimed that Awami League supporters snatched away her ballot paper from her hand.
Awami League candidate Talukder Abdul Khaleque said his party does not believe in rigging votes.
“BNP activists carried out organized anarchy in order to lay the blame on Awami League. The troubled centres were under BNP’s control to begin with,” he said.
BNP candidate Monju said he had anticipated the vote-rigging that went on during the polls.
“BNP activists did not yield under pressure. Our people monitored the polling centres cautiously. Awami League men entered the booths in hordes and cast false votes,” he said.
“Awami League’s true nature was revealed to the public,” he said.
A 50-year-old voter Abdus Sattar, said he had to return home without casting his vote. Sattar told reporters that at the polling centre, he was told to go to another room.
“When I went there, the people there told me, ‘Your vote has already been cast and there are no more ballot papers. Go home’,” he said.
Councillor candidate Md Mahbub Kaiser submitted a written complaint to the Election Commission seeking cancellation of votes in ward 22 of the city.
Mahbub, who had served as the councillor for ward 22, filed the complaint to Returning Officer Md Yunus Ali.
The complaint read: “Polling agents representing the watch symbol are obstructing the voters from casting their ballot.”
“The voters are being forced to vote for that symbol. Those who are not complying are being pushed out of the centre, and their votes are being stolen.”
Voters at PTI centre claimed that it took them a lot of time to cast the votes because of the Electronic Voting Machine system. PTI was among the two centres where the machines were used in the KCC polls.
However, Retuning Officer Yunus said: “No untoward incident was reported.”
“Elderly women were having difficulties in casting votes using the EVMs.”
According to the EC’s decision, CCCTV cameras were to be installed at some of the risky polling centres. However, Presiding Officer Ataur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune CCTV cameras were not installed at Pioneer Girl’s High School, which was one of the risky centres.
The city has 493,107 voters – 248,986 men and 244,527 women – in 31 wards.
Border Guard Bangladesh troopers, police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Ansar and VDP members were deployed to ensure law and order while 49 executive magistrates and 10 judicial magistrates were also on duty.
Four platoons of BGB troopers were kept as a reserve force.