Rajshahi polls mired in irregularities

Mohiuddin Alamgir and Suzon Ali from Rajshahi | Updated at 11:57pm on July 30, 2018

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Awami League mayoral candidate Khairuzzaman Liton, with supporters, flashes V sign at the party office in Rajshahi city on Monday after unofficial vote count showed him winner. — Sony Ramany

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party mayoral candidate in Rajshahi Mossaddique Hossain Bulbul staged a sit-in at a polling station protesting at ousting or barring his polling agents from polling stations and other irregularities that mired the Rajshahi city polls on Monday.
Mossaddique also refrained from casting his vote protesting at irregularities, saying that casting vote had no value in the current situation when democracy was in danger.
Police barred journalists from entering a number of polling stations citing instructions from the presiding officers.
Mossaddique’s election conducting committee convenor Mizanur Rahman Minu alleged that the ‘incompetent and inefficient Election Commission and government conducted an election with a conspiracy and vote rigging.’

Top, police pick up three youths for trying to stuff ballots closing the door of a polling booth in Sylhet city while, bottom, BNP mayoral candidate for Rajshahi City Corporation Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul observes sit-in at Islamia College polling centre, protesting at election irregularities on Monday. — New Age/ Sony Ramany

He also alleged that ballot papers were ‘snatched and polling agents were ousted from 87 polling stations.’
Awami League candidate AHM Khairuzzman and assistant returning officer Delwar Hossain, however, claimed that the polling was peaceful, free and fair.
‘We received complaints about irregularities at some polling stations and took immediate actions,’ said Delwar.
Mossaddique ended his four-hour sit in at Islamia College polling station at Binodpur at about 4:00pm, when the polling ended.
He said that he staged the sit-in as reaching there at about 11:30am he came to know that his polling agents were ousted from the polling station and ballot papers for mayoral polls were not being given to voters.
He said that the administration and the commission were implementing the government’s blue print.
‘Casting of votes was of no value under such circumstances that is why I choose not to cast vote,’ he added.
‘Even some ballot boxes were stuffed with stamped ballots at night before the polling and public servants were also engaged in vote rigging,’ he alleged.
Presiding officer Abdullah M Shafi at about 2:00pm denied the allegations saying that about 900 of the 2,284 votes were cast till 1:00pm. ‘What we can do if polling agents leave the polling station. I cannot allow any polling agents who brings papers without signature,’ he said.
No polling agents for BNP and other opposition candidates were found at three of the five boots at the polling station. At about 3:30pm, some voters alleged that they were not given mayoral ballots.
Polling officers at booth 2 and 3 at the polling station said that counterfoil of ballots was finished and they were changing it. Polling officers at booth 1 said that they had two mayoral ballots while the number of ballot for councillors and female councillors were about 20-25.
When New Age approached for comments of Abdullah M Shafi at 3:45pm, law enforcers sitting in front of his office said he would meet no media.
No BNP polling agents were found at 10 booths of two polling stations housed at Rajshahi Polytechnic Institute at about 12:30pm.
BNP leaders alleged that their agents were not allowed at the polling station. Presiding officers of the male and female polling stations Dulal Rahman and Miznaur Rahman respectively said that no BNP polling agent came to the office.
About 600 of the 1,546 male voters and about 50 per cent of 1,691 female voters cast their vote till 12:30pm, the presiding officers said.
No BNP polling agents were found at UCEP Chhota Banagram City Corporation School. Presiding officer Abdul Malek said that six BNP polling agents came to the polling stations but they left the station without informing him.
He said that 1500 out of 1844 votes were casted till 1:00pm.
Five BNP candidate polling agents leave the Rajshahi University School polling centre in protest of ousting of another fellow by the Awami League supporters at about 11:30am. Presiding officer Dev Dulal Dhali refused to comment.
Mossaddique Hossain’s chief election agent Tofazzal Hossain said that no polling agents were allowed at Shirul Colony Government Primary School, Shirul Colony High School, two centers of Kajla Government
Primary School along with another 10 centers before lection started.
Locals alleged that all BNP candidate polling agents were ousted by ruling Awami league supporters from two centers at Kajla Government Primary School at about 10:30.
When New Age went to the station, police barred New Age team to enter the polling centre claiming that they has no instruction from presiding officer about permitting journalists at the centre.
Several hundred people brought out a procession alleging that they were not allowed to cast their vote at two polling stations at Atkoushi Government Primary School after 4:00pm.
Police barred New Age from entering Atkoushi Government Primary School premises.
Law enforcers barred New Age team from visiting Dashmari Government Primary School and Dashmari High School, Upashahar Model Government Primary School and Shishu Niketan Madhyamik Balika Bidyalay and several other polling stations.
Dashmari Government Primary School presiding officer Ranjit Kumar and Shishu Niketan Madhyamik Balika Bidyalay presiding officer SM Nazmul Kamal said that journalists were not allowed to enter polling stations.
Assistant returning officer Shahidul Islam at Shishu Niketan told reporters that there was no instruction to bar journalists from polling stations.
Awami League mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton after casting his vote at Upashahar Satellite Primary School said that he would accept whatever the result might be.
At a press conference in the evening, he said that the polling ended peacefully and in a free and fair manner.
‘I do not understand what BNP candidate is trying to say by the sit-in. I will not make any further comment,’ he said.