Electioneering ended Saturday midnight in the elections to Barisal, Sylhet and Rajshahi city corporations, scheduled for Monday, amid allegations of violations of electoral code of conduct and arrest and harassment of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists.
Border Guard Bangladesh members were deployed in the three cities on Saturday while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party demanded deployment of army for free and fair polls.
At the last stage of electioneering, police in Sylhet arrested BNP mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury’ election coordination committee convener Abdur Razzak in the city Saturday evening.
Kotwali police station sub-inspector Kamal Hosain said that Abdur Razzak was named in a case filed Friday night for the explosion of two crude bombs at an election office of AL mayoral candidate Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran at
Chowkidekhi early Friday.
Mayoral candidates from the ruling Awami League and opposition BNP raised allegations of violations of electoral code of conduct during the electioneering that began on July 10.
Major allegations of violations of the code included campaigning by ruling Awami League members of parliament, AL mayors of other cities and public servants.
The commission, however, apparently took no action against violations of the code.
Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed denied the allegation, claiming that the commission requested the speaker to take step to stop electioneering by lawmakers and asked mayors not to take part in such campaigning.
Border guard officials said that the authorities deployed 19 platoons of border guards in Rajshahi, 15 platoons in Barishal and 14 platoons in Sylhet to assist the administration and they would remain deployed until July 31.
Election Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said that offices of respective returning officer already took all preparations for holding the elections in a free and fair manner.
He said that the commission made arrangements to monitor some polling stations in the three cities from Dhaka through CC cameras.
The commission formed a monitoring team led by its National Identity Registration Wing director general Mohammad Saidul Islam with representatives of public security division and law enforcement agencies, he added.
The returning officers announced embargo on the movement of unauthorised motor vehicles, including taxicabs, microbuses, jeeps, pickups, cars, buses, trucks, and three-wheelers, from Sunday midnight to Monday midnight.
The commission engaged 35 officials as own observers to monitor the city polls – 12 each in Rajshahi and Barisal and 11 in Sylhet.
Commission officials said that 609 local and international observers – 592 from 15 local agencies and 17 from three foreign agencies including the US embassy – would observe the three city polls.
They said that 192 local and 7 foreign observers in Rajshahi, 203 local and 3 foreign observers in Barisal and 197 local and 7 foreign observers in Sylhet would observe the polls.
A public holiday was declared for the cities on the polling day, they said.
According to the commission plan, 24 police, Ansar and VDP members would be deployed at each risky polling station while 22 members would be deployed at other polling stations.
New Age Rajshahi University correspondent reported that BNP mayoral candidate Mossaddique Hossain Bulbul alleged that the commission and law enforcers were ‘acting like front organisation of the ruling party.’
‘Some people are threatening BNP activists at different wards of the city,’ he alleged.
Law enforcers have so far arrested 175 BNP activists, he alleged, adding that 23 polling agents were arrested and sent to jails in Pabna, Natore and Chepainawabganj.
‘We will besiege police stations if any more BNP activists were arrested.’
At a press conference, AL mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton said that BNP candidate’s false allegations irked Rajshahi city people.
‘BNP does not have enough people to appoint polling agents, so they are trying to make it an issue,’ he said.
New Age correspondent in Sylhet reported Some 80 leaders of BNP and its front organisations were named in another case filed Friday night for the explosion of two crude bombs at an election office of AL mayoral candidate Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran at Chowkidekhi.
Biman Bandar police station officer-in-charge Gausul Hossain said that Faruk Ahmad, a leader of the AL youth front Juba League, filed the case with the police station.
BNP mayoral candidate in Sylhet Ariful Haque Chowdhury at a press conference warned to take to the street protesting at any irregularity in the polls.
Mentioning that BNP activists would not go back home, if the result was stolen, Arif said, ‘Our back has already been stuck on the wall. We will embrace death if necessary, but will not quit the election race.’
He alleged that the high-up government officials reached Sylhet from Dhaka for ‘election engineering’.
He alleged that supporters of ruling Awami League mayoral candidate Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran with the help of a few police officers exploded crude bombs and burnt an office of Kamran as part of their trap to prosecute BNP leaders and activists.
He said that more than 400 of his campaigners were already named in false cases filed recently.
Sylhet unit Jatiya Party on Saturday extended its formal support to the AL mayoral candidate.
Local Jatiya Party member of parliament Yahiya Chowdhury said that they made the formal announcement in this regard according to a directive issued by party chairman Hussain Muhammad Ershad.
Returning officer Md Alimuzzaman said that they completed all necessary preparation for holding the polls in a free and fair manner.
New Age correspondent in Barisal reported that BNP mayoral candidate Mujibur Rahman Sarwar said that at least 40 leaders and activists were arrested by law forcers violating a High Court order.
He said that ruling AL activists were threatening BNP activists and supporters to avoid polls-related activities.
At a press conference, Socialist Party of Bangladesh mayoral candidate Manisha Chakraborty alleged that the commission failed to create environment conducive to holding fair polls.
The first-ever female mayoral candidate in Barisal alleged that although her party assigned agents at each polling stations, it was uncertain if they would be able to discharge their duties due to threats being issued on them.
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