City polls deferred amid protests

SSC exams now begin on February 3

Staff Correspondent | Published: 20:28, Jan 18,2020 | Updated: 23:48, Jan 18,2020


The Election Commission on Saturday announced the deferral of the polling date of the elections to the two cities of Dhaka to February 1 from January 30 in view of the Saraswati Puja celebrations on the day.

The EC decision came amidst the protests demanding a deferral of the polls on account of the January 30 Hindu festival.

‘I had a meeting with all the election commissioners and we unanimously decided to defer the voting date. Now the polling will be held on February 1 instead of January 30,’ chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda announced at about 8:30pm.

In the face of continuous protests from different quarters, including Dhaka University students, Hindu Buddhist and Christian Unity Council and Hindu Mahajote, the CEC began the emergency meeting with other election commissioners at the Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital at about 4:30pm on Saturday.

The CEC said that the EC had earlier fixed January 30 as the voting date in accordance with the government’s calendar of holidays.

‘I had talked to the education minister who had agreed to change the date of beginning of the Secondary School Certificate and equivalent examinations,’ he added.

He said that the relevant circular and orders that were published earlier would be changed.

Education minister Dipu Moni told reporters that they rescheduled the SSC and equivalent examinations, which would now commence on January 3 instead of January 1, as announced earlier.

‘The SSC and equivalent examinations schedules have been changed due to the city elections and the fresh schedules will be published on Sunday,’ the education minister said.

The Hindu community will celebrate Saraswati Puja on January 29 and 30 and, after the announcement of the election schedule by the EC, different quarters had been demanding  a  changed schedule for the city elections.

After the CEC made the announcement the DU students at the Raju memorial sculpture on the campus withdrew their fasting and brought out a procession to express their joy.

Around 50 DU students began a fast unto death  on Thursday demanding change of the election date, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote on Friday announced that they would boycott the January 30 elections and Hindu Buddhist and Christian Unity Council leader Rana Das Gupta in a press conference on Saturday announced a series of countrywide protest programmes for a fresh election date.

Dhaka University vice-chancellor M Akhtaruzzaman, Dhaka University Teachers Association, Dhaka University Central Students’ Union, different student and socio-cultural-political organisations had expressed solidarity with the protesting students.

AL mayoral candidates Atiqul Islam and Fazle Noor Taposh and BNP mayoral candidates Tabith Awal and Ishraque Hossain on several occasions urged the EC to change the election date for a smooth celebration of Saraswati Puja.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party as well as the Jatiya Oikya Front had earlier denounced the EC for fixing the election date on the day of Sarswati Puja, demanding a change of the date while Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader on Friday said that they would have no objection if the election date was changed.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh on Saturday, in a letter to the EC, demanded a new election date.

On Thursday, a Supreme Court lawyer appealed to the Appellate Division against the High Court’s rejection of a petition seeking deferral of the elections to the Dhaka north and south cities from January 30.

The Appellate Division’s chamber judge Justice Md Nuruzzaman is scheduled to hear the appeal on Sunday.

Immediately after the CEC’s announcement of the deferral, the AL and BNP mayoral candidates for Dhaka south and north cities welcomed the decision.

On December 22, 2019, the Election Commission announced the schedules for the elections to the Dhaka north and south cities fixing January 30 as the voting date.

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