Voting in Rajshahi, Barisal and Sylhet cities ended on Monday afternoon amid allegations of intimidation of opposition polling agents and electorates and ballot stuffing.
All mayoral candidates but the ruling Awami League candidate boycotted the polls in Barisal halfway through the elections alleging that the polls were rigged by Awami League.
The balloting that started at 8:00am continued till 4:00pm without any break.
The city elections are the last major polls before the next general elections expected to be held in December.
Five mayoral candidates are contesting the polls in Rajshahi, while seven mayoral contenders are running in Barisal and Sylhet each.
Among the mayoral candidates, Awami League’s AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and BNP’s Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul are considered the front-runners in Rajshahi, while AL’s Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah and BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar in Barisal and AL’s Badar Uddin Kamran and BNP’s Arifur Rahman in Sylhet.
In terms of security risks, there are 306 ‘important’ (vulnerable) polling stations out of 395 in the three city corporations.
Awami League’s mayoral AHM Khairuzzaman Liton cast his vote at Upashahar Satellite Primary School centre. He said he would accept whatever the result comes.
Meanwhile, BNP’s candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul’s chief election agent Tofazzal Hossain said till 9:30pm their agents were not allowed to enter in 13 polling centres. Assistant returning officer Delwar Hossain said problems at two centres came to their knowledge and they had instantly resolved it. Any other complains are yet to come, he said.
At Upashahar Model Government Primary School centre, police barred New Age team to enter the polling centre claiming that it would require permission of the presiding officer.
In Barisal, Awami League’s candidate Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah cast his vote at Barisal College centre and said he would accept the results, whatever it comes.
BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar went to cast his vote at Syeda Mujibunnesa Secondary School centre but could not case his vote as he did not know his voter number. Chaos was created outside the polling centre as people wearing badges of ‘boat’ chanted slogans against Sarwar.
Sarwar later told reporters that his agents were ousted from around 50 polling centres and voters are being intimidated. ‘If it continues there will be no fair election,’ he said.
At Barisal Government Girls High School Centre, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal candidate Manisha Chakrabarti came under attack twice after she caught ballot papers stamped on boat symbol.
In Sylhet, AL’s Badar Uddin Kamran cast his vote at Government Pilot Primary School centre and the
BNP’s Arifur Rahman cast his vote at Rainagar government primary school centre.
Kamran was confident about his winning the polls and Arifur alleged that presiding officers of polling centres in three wards had stuffed boxes in the previous night.
A 24-member security team, comprising seven policemen with arms, three Battalion Ansar men with arms, two embedded Ansar with arms and 12 embedded Ansar/VDP members with sticks are protecting each ‘important’ (vulnerable) polling centre, while a 22-member security team guarding each normal polling station.
There are 114 ‘important’ polling stations out of 138 in Rajshahi City Corporation, while 80 ‘important’ stations out of 134 in Sylhet City Corporation and 112 ‘important’ stations out 123 in Barishal City Corporation.
Some 250 security teams of police, Rab, BGB, APBn and Ansar remain deployed either as mobile or striking force in Rajshahi, Barishal and Sylhet city corporations.
More than 200 teams of police, APBn and Ansar, and Rab were deployed as striking or mobile force in the election areas.
Besides, 44 platoons of Border Guard of Bangladesh — 15 platoons in Rajshahi, 15 platoons in Barisal and 14 platoons in Sylhet —were deployed in the polling areas.
Apart from these, an executive magistrate remains deployed in each of 87 general wards, while a judicial magistrate in each of 29 reserved wards in the three cities to take action against violation of the election code of conduct.
Instead of ballot papers, electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being used in 15 polling stations –-11 polling stations in Barisal and two each in Rajshahi and Sylhet—to cast votes in the three city elections.
In Rajshahi city, five candidates are in the election race for the mayoral post, while there are 160 contestants for 30 general councillor posts and 52 women contenders for 10 reserved councillor posts.
A total of 318,138 voters can exercise their franchise through 138 polling stations in Rajshahi city.
In Barisal city, seven candidates are contesting the election for the mayoral post, while 95 candidates are there for 30 general councillor posts, and 34 women contenders for 10 reserved councillor posts.
A total of 242,166 voters are allowed to cast their votes under 123 polling stations in Barisal city.
In Sylhet city, seven candidates are running for the mayoral post, while 127 contestants are there for 27 general councillor posts and 66 women contenders for nine reserved councillor posts.
A total of 321,732 voters can exercise their voting rights through 134 polling stations in Sylhet city.
On May 29 last, the Election Commission announced the election schedules for the three city corporations.