BNP’s Ariful wins in Sylhet, most mayoral contestants but AL boycott polls
Ruling Awami League candidates in Rajshahi and Barisal and Bangladesh Nationalist Party candidate in Sylhet were leading in mayoral polls, marred by boycott most opposition contestants and allegations of massive irregularities including violence, ballot stuffing, ousting or barring opposition polling agents from polling stations on Monday.
According to the unofficial results announced by the returning officers, AL mayoral candidate in Rajshahi AHM Khairuzzaman Liton polled 1,65,096 votes and BNP candidate Mossaddique Hossain Bulbul bagged 77,700 votes in all 138 polling stations. Ganasamhati Andolan-backed independent candidate Md Murad Murshed bagged 1,051 votes while Bangldesh Jatiya Party’s M Habibur Rahman got lowest 320 votes.
In Barisal, AL’s Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah got 1,07,353 votes and BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar bagged 13,135 votes Socialist Party of Bangladesh’s Manisha Chakrabarty polled 1,917 votes in 107 of the 123 polling stations. The Election Commission suspended polling of one polling station and suspended results of 15 polling stations for various irregularities.
In Sylhet, BNP’s Ariful Haque Chowdhury got 90,496 votes and AL’s Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran polled 85,870 votes in 132 of the 134 polling stations. The commission suspended polling at the rest two polling stations having 4,787 voters.
Most of the opposition candidates and parties, including main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, demanded re-polling in the three cities.
The highest irregularities were reported from Barisal city where five of the six mayoral candidates, including BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar, boycotted the polls halfway through the polls, about four hours after the voting began, protesting at widespread stuffing and manipulation.
Islami Andolon Bangladesh candidate Obaidur Rahman Mahbub also quitted the polls alleging vote rigging while Socialist Party of Bangladesh’s Manisha Chakrabarty demanded re-polling as she was attacked by AL activists when she caught them during ballot stuffing.
Mujibur Rahman Sarwar alleged that his polling agents were ousted from at least 50 polling stations.
New Age correspondent in Barisal reported that Manisha said that on arriving at Sadar Girls’ School centre they found Awami League activists engaged in ballot-box stuffing.
‘When we took the stamped ballots to the presiding officer, two people wearing Awami League badges pushed me and hit me from the back. They also tore up the ballot papers taking away from me,’ said Manisha.
She added that they obtained similar reports from all polling stations in the city.
On the same ground, Jaitya Party’s M Iqbal Hossain Tapos and Communist Party of Bangladesh’s Abul Kalam Azad also boycotted the election demanding the Election Commission to postpone the polls due to vote rigging by Awami League.
At a press conference at Nirbachon Bhaban in Dhaka, chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda expressed his satisfaction over the polls, saying that the polls were held peacefully except some isolated incidents of irregularities.
He said that following the irregularities the commission suspended polling at one polling station and suspended of results 15 polling stations in Barisal.
He said that there was no reason to hold re-polling in Barisal.
He advised assaulted mayoral candidate Manisha to file case or go to court for legal redresses.
He also said that no incidents of irregularities in Rajshahi were reported while voting at two polling stations was suspended following reports of presiding officers in Sylhet.
BNP mayoral candidate in Rajshahi Mossaddique Hossain Bulbul did not casted his vote as he found that ballot papers were finished at about noon.
Asked about the matter, the chief election commissioner said that it was Mossaddique’s personal decision to cast or not to cast his vote.
‘Media is a matter, but reports from our officials are the primary information for us,’ he said about the reported irregularities.
Asked about his satisfaction over the polls boycotted by most of the opposition candidates, he said that boycotting the polls were their personal matter and ‘I am satisfied.’
New Age correspondent in Rajshahi reported that at a press conference Mossaddique rejected the polls and demanded re-election in the city with deployment of army and resignation of the returning officer.
At a press conference at BNP central office, its senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi alleged that ruling ‘Awami League goons’ drove away BNP polling agents from almost all polling stations stuffed ballot boxes.
He said that 24 polling agents of BNP went missing in Rajshahi.
He alleged that the Election Commission turned into a parasite and opponent to fair polls.
In an instant party reaction at a press conference at Dhanmandi-3 office of the AL president Sheikh Hasina, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said that BNP boycotted the mayoral elections in Barisal to make the city polls controversial.
Quader claimed that the mayoral polls in the cities were held in a free and fair manner.
New Age staff correspondent in Sylhet reported that BNP mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury termed the polls ‘an election of betrayal’ and challenged the AL to hold the election deploying army.
‘I am challenging to participate in the election with deployment of army. Then you [AL] can see that what miserable situation you will have to face,’ Arif said.
He alleged that senior AL leaders occupied the polling stations moving in microbuses and stuffed ballot boxes driving out his agents.
He said that activists of AL and its youth front Juba league and student front Chhatra League stuffed ballot boxes occupying most of the polling stations including Ambarkhana Govt Primary School, Chandantula Govt Primary School, MC College Primary School, Syed Hatim Ali High School and Khasdabir Govt High School.
Jamaat-e-Islami-backed independent mayoral candidate Ehsanul Mahbub Jubayer and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal mayoral candidate M Abu Jafar also demanded cancellation of the polls.
More than 25 people, including an executive magistrate, were injured in clashes between the supporters of rival councillor aspirants at different wards in the city.
AL mayoral candidate Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, however, claimed that the voting was held in a free, fair and peaceful environment.
‘Except a few incidents of chaos between supporters of some ward councillor candidates, the voters cast their vote in a festive atmosphere,’ he said.
Witness said that police fired a bullet in the air in front of a polling station while AL activists were stuffing ballot boxes.
United News of Bangladesh reported that police and members of Bangladesh Chhatra League attacked a journalist while he was taking photos of vote rigging at Darga Jalajia Primary School in Sylhet.
Injured Misbah Uddin, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology correspondent of daily Prothom Alo, said that some Chhatra League activists were casting fake votes at about 2:45pm.
Kotwali model police station officer-in-charge Mosarraf Hossain said that legal steps would be taken after investigation.
AL candidate Badar Uddin was defeated at the Sylhet Government Pilot High School polling centre, where he cast his vote, by BNP candidate Ariful by 130 votes.
Badar Uddin Kamran was also defeated by Ariful at two polling stations of the ward where voters cast their votes using electronic voting machines.
Protesting at the massive irregularities in the mayoral polls and attack on their candidate in Barisal city Socialist Party of Bangladesh announced countrywide protest rally on Tuesday, said a release.
The party also demanded re-polling in all three cities.
Islami Andolon Bangladesh also demanded re-polling in the cities as the party’s candidates were contested in all three cities.
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