Business leader Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin on Saturday was elected Awami League lawmaker for Dhaka-10 parliamentary constituency defeating Bangladesh Nationalist Party candidate Sheikh Robiul Islam with a 5 per cent turnout of voters amid the fear of coronavirus spread.
As per the unofficial result announced by returning officer, Mohiuddin got 15,955 votes while Robiul secured 817 votes.
According to the result, 16,965 votes were cast out of 3,12,281 votes. This showed that the turnout was 5.28 per cent.
In the Dhaka-10 by-election, all defeated candidates lost their deposits of Tk 25,000 for failure to receive one-eighth of the valid ballots while ruling Awami League candidates won after polling 94 per cent votes while BNP candidate got 4.82 per cent and the rest of the candidates polled lower than BNP.
The Dhaka-10 by-polls was also marred by widespread code of conduct violation, intimidation on the opposition activists, incidents of not allowing BNP polling agents to enter the polling centres, muscle flexing and forcing voters to vote for the ruling Awami League candidate.
The by-polls also witnessed violence and there was an allegation brought by a presiding officer that a local AL leader threatened him of dire consequences if he did not allow them 15 per cent ‘extra vote’.
While visiting different polling centres, no voter was seen at most places and there were polling booths where not a single vote was cast until 2:30pm.
All the polling booths had AL’s polling agents and none of any other candidates, including that of BNP.
The Election Commission held the elections ignoring the government’s general instructions for people to avoid public gathering in fear of coronavirus infection spread. The EC faced severe criticism past few days for sticking to its decision to hold the polls on the scheduled date of Saturday.
Directorate General of Health Services’ additional director general Nasima Sultana on Friday said that they suspected that there was a possibility of coronavirus spread from the electronic voting machines as the EVMs require finger prints. The EVMs were used in Dhaka-10 constituency.
Voters, AL activists as well as election officials blamed coronavirus situation was responsible for the low turnout and said that the EC could have avoided the situation by deferring the election date.
The turnout in the by-polls to Gaibandha-3 and Bagerhat-4 were, however, higher than that of Dhaka-10 by-polls.
The election began at 9:00am and ended at 5:00pm.
Immediately after ending the election hours, Dhaka-10 BNP candidate Rabiul Alam Rabi at a press conference at his main electoral office at Banglamotor, rejected the election result and demanded reform of electoral system and called for holding a new election.
He alleged that the voters did not come to the polling centres for AL’s muscle flexing, occupying and controlling polling centres, ousting or not allowing BNP polling agents and creating panic at the centres.
He alleged that the AL candidate had brought outsiders to occupy the polling centres.
Jatiya Party candidate for Dhaka-10 Md Shahjahan at his Jigatala residence told reporters that the ruling AL activists had barred his polling agents from entering into election centres.
EC secretary M Alamgir at about 4:30pm said that turnout of the by-polls were about 5 per cent in Dhaka-10, and 40 per cent in Gaibandha-3 and Bagerhat-4 as he informed by returning officer till 2:00pm.
He said that the commission was not embarrassed for the low turnout as ensuring voters’ presence at polling stations was not the EC’s responsibility.
He said there was no way of forcing voters to appear at the polling stations and there was no provision of minimum turnout for making an election acceptable.
Replying to a question, he said the rate of turnout in electronic voting was lower compared to paper ballot as there was no scope for casting fake votes through EVM.
At Maneshwar Government Primary School, a total of 129 votes out of 2,598 votes were cast until 1:15pm. Though there was no voter at the polling centre at the time, a good number of AL activists bearing badges of AL candidate were seen moving in and out of the polling booths.
An AL activist was seen forcing a voter in a booth to cast vote for AL candidate.
Its presiding officer Mohammad Sayed Abdullah told New Age that before the voting commenced, a local AL leader named Mohaimen Boyan asked him to stuff 15 per cent extra ballots, as he denied, Mohaimen threatened him for dire consequences.
Mohaimen, however, denied the allegation.
A total of 203 votes or 7.8 per cent votes were cast at the centre at the day’s end.
At centre No 54 at Dhanmondi 2, at Government Primary School at Hatirpool, a total of 189 out of 3,349 votes were cast until 4:15pm. A total of 48 votes out of 1,801 votes were cast at centre No 56 at Dhanmondi High School of the area until 3:15pm.
At Khan Hasan Adarsha Government Primary School polling centre, a total of 70 votes out of 3,017 were cast until 2:45pm, said the presiding officer Ahsan Habib.
At centre No 86 at Teachers’ Training College, a total of 21 votes out of 2,475 were cast with no vote at its one of six polling booths until 2:30pm, the centre’s presiding officer Md Humayun Kawsar told New Age.
Until 12:35am, a total of 42 votes out of 3,344 votes were cast with no vote in one polling booth and only one vote in another booth at polling centre No 3 at Dhaka University’s Institution of Leather Engineering, the polling cetre’s presiding officer Md Masud Rana said.
At Queen’s School and College Centre, the AL activists barred BNP polling agents from entering the polling centre and damaged the papers they brought sometimes after 9:00am, locals said.
At 11:45am, when BNP candidate’s chief electoral agent Ishraque Hossain came to the polling centre with its activists, the activists of AL and BNP chased one another.
Police picked up at least two BNP activists from the spot.
The polling centre’s presiding officer Mamunur Rashid said that no BNP polling agent came to him until 11:00am and that a total of nine voters out of 2,388 voters exercised their voting rights till then.
Babul Biswas of Dhanmondi’s Road No 1 who cast vote at the Dhaka City College polling centre said that he came to the polling centre to cast vote with protections amid fear of coronavirus infection.
Md Diljahan Bhuiyan, an AL activist who was coordinating the party activists inside Moneshwar Government Primary School at Dhanmondi, said that his wife did not agree to come to the polling centre due to coronavirus fear.
He said that he was not a voter at Moneshwar Government Primary School.
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