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Dhaka Tribune

Mixed reviews from monitors

Update : 30 Dec 2015, 10:07 PM

Election observers said on Wednesday that municipal elections appeared to be free despite some irregularities at polling centres, but added that they had not yet received reports from all 234 municipalities where elections are being held.

“So far so good,” said Najmul Ahsan Kalimullah, chairman of Janipop. He said some election violence is not uncommon around the world and Bangladesh is no exception.

Kalimullah said a new dimension to elections was apparent this time around.

“We saw Awami League men complaining about presiding officers and law enforcers in some places. They even said the Election Commission behaved with them like a step-mother. This is a good sign because it has increased the credibility of the EC.

“The BNP, which boycotted the parliamentary elections and has long resisted elections held under the current government, participated in the polls, turning a 180 degree somersault. This is also a good sign.”

Sharmeen Murshid, chief executive of Brotee, said voters had mixed feelings about the polls.

“We saw that the atmosphere changed after 11am. In some places voter turnout decreased drastically. In many places BNP polling agents were absent. In some places ruling party supporters roamed inside the polling stations with their symbols hung around their necks – a serious irregularity.

“On the other hand, we also saw that in some places law enforcers and presiding officers take prompt action against offenders.”

Sharmeen said: “It is too early to make any concrete comment on the polls. By noon we found 40% of the votes cast in some places, in others we found 75% of votes had been cast.”

During a visit to Savar and Dhamrai municipalities on Wednesday, polls observer Taleya Rahman found that a festive mood was absent at polling stations.

“I cannot say if it was a fair election but in some places it was free,” she said.

But the executive director of Democracy Watch found irregularities carried out by a ruling party at at least one polling centre.

“In Dhamrai, I saw the Awami League candidate enter the polling centre with a large number of followers which is a severe violation of the electoral code of conduct. Police tried to bar the followers but could not. Nearby BGB personnel sat idle,” she said.

“But in Savar, the situation was quiet but there was a slow voter turnout.” 

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