Cities of Barisal, Sylhet and Rajshahi gone to polls on Monday amid continued arrests of opposition activists, allegations of intimidation of opposition polling agents and fear of violence and ballot stuffing.
At least 300 leaders and activists of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, involved in electioneering, were arrested in the three cities till Sunday, alleged BNP mayoral candidates.
They also suspected that many of their polling agents would be picked up by law enforcers or forced by the ruling party activists at the night before voting not to go to the polling stations.
BNP alleged that the police continued arresting its activists although the High Court asked them not to arrest BNP activists during the polls.
According to Election Commission officials, law enforcement agencies spotted 112 of the 123 polling stations in Barisal, 80 of the 134 polling stations in Sylhet and 114 of the 138 polling stations in Rajshahi as risky.
Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said that the returning officers completed all preparations for holding the polls in a free and fair manner.
He said that the commission would take steps instantly if any irregularity was found at polling stations or if the situation went out of control.
Presiding officers would pass information to the commission through text messages and the commission would make decisions on the basis of the texted information, he said.
The commission on Sunday notified ruling Awami Legue mayoral candidate in Barisal city Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah asking for his explanations on allegations of violating the electoral code of conduct by holding a rally in Barisal in name of ‘uthan baithak’ Saturday evening, said returning officer M Mujibur Rahman.
Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, at a press conference at the ministry on Sunday expressed hope that AL would win the polls in the three cities and the polls will be held peacefully.
BNP on Sunday said that the party would stay in the field of battle of mayoral elections till last time although the commission failed to ensure required environment for fair polls.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi at a briefing at the party’s central office also alleged that arrest, intimidation, filing ‘false’ cases and raids at the houses of its leaders and activists in the three cities continued.
A BNP delegation led by its joint secretary general Mahbub Uddin Khokon met chief election commission KM Nurul Huda and filed a complaint stating that their activists and polling agents were being arrested and intimidated by law enforcers and Awami League activists.
In Rajshahi, AHM Khairuzzaman Liton of Awami League, Mossaddique Hossain Bulbul of BNP, Md Shafiqur Rahman of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, M Habibur Rahman of Bangldesh Jatiya Party and independent candidate Md Murad Murshed are contesting for the position of mayor.
In Barisal, Awami League’s Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah, BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar, Jaitya Party’s M Iqbal HossainTapos, Socialist Party of Bangladesh’s Manisha Chakrabarty, Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s Obaidur Rahman Mahbub and Communist Party of Bangladesh’s Abul Kalam Azad are vying in the mayoral race.
In Sylhet, Awami League’s Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, BNP’s Ariful Haque Chowdhury, Sopcialist Party of Bangladesh’s M Abu Jafar, Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s M Moazzem Hossain and independent candidates Ehsanul Mahbub Jubayer, M Ehsanul Haq Taher and Badruzzaman Selim are contesting the for the mayoral position.
There are 30 positions of ward councillors and 10 positions from seats reserved for women in each of Rajshahi and Barisal city corporations while 27 positions of ward councillors and 9 positions female councillors.
According to the Election Commission, 2,42,666 voters — 1,21,436 males and 1,20,739 females in Barishal, 3,21,732 voters — 1,71,444 males and 1,50,288 females in Sylhet and 3,18,138 voters –– 1,56,085 males and 1,62,053 females –– in Rajshahi enrolled to cast their vote in the city polls.
According to commission officials, 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.
As per the commission, 24 police, Ansar and VDP members were deployed at each risky polling station while 22 members would be deployed at each of the other polling stations.
The commission would use 15 electronic voting machines each in Rajshahi and Shylhet and 11 in Barisal.
The commission appointed 8,601 election officers –– 395 presiding officers, 2,702 assistant presiding officers and 5,404 polling officers.
It appointed 138 presiding, 1,026 assistant presiding and 2,052 polling officers in Rajshahi, 123 presiding, 750 assistant presiding and 1,500 polling officers in Barisal and 134 presiding, 926 assistant presiding and 1,852 polling officers in Sylhet.
New Age staff correspondent in Sylhet reported that Sylhet Metropolitan Police additional deputy commissioner Abdul Wahab said that four BNP leaders and activists were arrested in the city on Sunday.
New Age correspondent in Barisal reported that at least 50 BNP activists were arrested in the city on Sunday, alleged BNP. Barisal city Detective Branch assistant commissioner Nasir Uddin Ahmed said that police arrested those who were named in cases with specific charges.
New Age Rajshahi University correspondent reported that Rajshahi Metropolitan Police assistant police commissioner Iftekhair Alam said that police arrested people named in old cases.
He said that allegation of arresting BNP activists in new cases was not true.
A public holiday was declared for the cities for today as voting would start at 8:00am and continue till 4:00pm without any break.
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