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Dhaka Tribune

Upazila elections end tomorrow

Update : 29 Mar 2014, 08:28 PM

A total of 74 upazilas are voting in the fifth phase of the ongoing local body polls tomorrow, amid allegations and counter-allegations of vote rigging and occupying polling centres.

Contestants backed by both Awami League and BNP spent a busy day in their respective localities yesterday – the last electioneering day before the polls. The local administrations have suspended the movement of all kinds of vehicles in and around the polling areas as a preemptive measure to avoid unrest.

In the first four phases, the festive mood of the local polls has been somewhat marred by sporadic incidents of violence in some of the upazilas, that killed 13 and injured hundreds.

The Election Commission (EC) has asked the authorities concerned to deploy additional law enforcers, especially in the polling centres marked as vulnerable, in the wake of escalating violence – a trend that started with the second phase after a relatively peaceful first phase and peaked with the fourth.

Just like the previous phases, army personnel will remain on duty as the striking force alongside other agencies including the Border Guard Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion, Police and Ansar.

In addition, a monitoring cell will look after the situations in the polling areas on behalf of the commission, said Election Commissioner Mohammad Abu Hafiz.

Despite the presence of the army personnel and law enforcers, the fact that there has been bloodshed, has prompted voters in some areas to apprehend unrest in their respective localities.

Nizamuddin, a first-time voter and a student of the Chhagalnaiya Government College in Feni, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I doubt if I can cast vote because the other upazilas in the district saw huge violence and illegal stamping. I will make my mind about casting vote after observing the situation on the election day.”

The scene, however, is different in some of the other upazilas that have seen very little or no violence centring the local body polls that have gained prominence because of the changed political scenario after the January 5 national elections.

Shaymol Bhadra, a voter from the Tangail Sadar Upazila, said: “People of Tangail are peace loving and the situation here is not tensed. I think people will cast their votes amid a festive mood tomorrow.”

The upazila parishad chairman contenders backed by the ruling Awami League will be challenged by at least 43 of their rebel party-mates. The BNP-backed candidates on the other hand will be facing 45 rebel challengers.

A total of 1,057 candidates including 362 chairman, 418 vice chairman and 277 women vice chairman backed by the Awami League, BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jatiya Party are contesting in the 74 upazilas.

Our Bogra correspondent reported that the local administration had identified all of the 125 polling centers in the sadar upazila as vulnerable.

Interestingly, there are some upazilas in this phase where candidates from both the major sides have brought allegations against each other.

In Laxmipur Sadar Upazila for example, ruling party-backed candidate AKM Salah Uddin brought allegations of breaching electoral code of conduct against his BNP-backed rival Mahmudul Karim.

Karim, on the other hand, accused Salah Uddin of giving life threats to his men if they did not pull out of the race. He also alleged that Salah Uddin had been using government mechanisms to repress him.

Our Satkhira correspondent reported that police on Friday detained district chapter BNP Vice-President Habibur Rahman when he was addressing a street rally on behalf of his brother, who is a chairman aspirant in the Satkhira Sadar Upazila. OC of Satkhira sadar police station Enamul Haque said Habib was picked up for violating electoral code of conduct.

The Election Commission has setup 5,666 polling stations and 37,974 booths in the 74 upazilas that are voting tomorrow. More than 1.1 crore voters will be practicing their voting rights. 

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