Recently held elections to the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh have set an example of a farce election in a professional organisation, marked by irregularities including ballot staffing and occupying polling booths by outsiders, said candidates and governance campaigners.
They said that the elections to the institution, held on February 27, featured the irregularities which took place in recent elections including the general election and local government elections.
They said that the people had no faith in the electoral system as it collapsed being abused by politicians and now the elections to professional bodies also became questionable for party affiliations.
The election to the institution, the apex body of the country’s professional engineers of all disciplines, was held amid boycott by most candidates while three panels took part in it.
Candidates and voters said that the election was arranged in an unfair manner and a good number of votes were cast on the night before the polling day.
Of the three panels, two were from ruling Awami League-backed Bangabandhu Engineers’ Association and another form Bangladesh Nationalist Party-backed Jatiyatabadi Engineers’ Association.
The engineers said that the supporters of the Awami League-backed panel led by Nazrul Islam and Mamunur Rashid physically tortured the rival candidates and voters to sweep the polls.
Aminur Rashid Chowdhury, chairman candidate for the institution’s Dhaka Centre, said that he went to the institution to collect his card on February 26 and he was suddenly attacked for reasons unknown.
All the candidates and supporters except the Awami League-backed Nurul Huda led panel boycotted the election.
The professionals also formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka on February 27.
The BNP-backed panel withdrew them from the race in protest against irregularities and held a press conference detailing the reasons of boycott with appeal to save the institution from disorder.
Jamilur Reza Choudhury, a former president of the institution, told New Age that he had never seen such incidents which took place in the polls for the 2020-2021 term in any of the past elections to the institution.
He said that he witnessed that a large number of outsiders staffed ballot and cordoned off the ballot boxes to prevent voters to cast vote.
He said that the polls set precedence in the voting history of institution and it was a farce one.
Defeated president candidate SM Nazrul Islam told New Age that 14,000 ballot paper was printed for Dhaka while there were 12,000 voters. The ballots were finished by 3:00pm, two hours before ending of voting, as outsiders cast ballots in favour of the panel led by Nurul Huda, a former chairman of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, he said.
He said that during the polls, he and BNP-backed panel president candidate Mahmudul Hasan had asked the chief election commissioner of the polls Hamidul Haq to take action over the irregularities but no action was taken.
The defeated candidates also submitted an application to the chief election commissioner demanding re-election.
Chief election commissioner Hamidul Haq said that nothing was happened to hold a fresh election.
On February 29, the institution sent a press release on the results of the polls saying that Nurul Huda and Shahadat Hossain were elected president and general secretary of the professionals’ body.
About the irregularities, newly elected president Nuru Huda told New Age that the allegations were baseless and the defeated candidates were raising the allegations to make the polls controversial.
He said that some irregularities might take place in the posts of council members as a good number of young professionals contested for the posts.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that what had happened in the institution’s case was ‘just a symptom of a deadly disease that is spreading fast and menacingly.’
‘An unprecedented series of failures of the EC leadership has shamelessly allowed itself to be totally dysfunctional and not only sent the idea of level playing field for free and fair elections to the museum, but also set examples for replication at all other levels,’ he added.
It is also a syndrome of the prevailing political culture that election must be won not by the choice of voters but by muscle and manipulation, he said.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said that the unhealthy competition taken place in the polls of a professional body reflected the notion that the ruling party’s backing was enough to ensure supremacy.
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