The electioneering for the Chittagong City Corporation polls ended on Monday amid violence and irregularities with candidates and others fearing further violence as the city goes to the elections tomorrow.
Addressing a press conference at the Nirbachon Bhavan in Dhaka, election commissioner Mahbub Talukdar said that the commission could not avoid the responsibility for any untoward incident in the election.
‘I am fearing violence in Chittagong city because two lives have been lost there. I have said before and still say that life is worth more than any election,’ he said.
He said that the Chittagong city polls were the most important election for the rest of the tenure of the current Election Commission.
‘There are enough reasons for fear of and concern about violence surrounding this election. If a conducive environment does not exist, free, fair, lawful and acceptable elections are not possible,’ he said.
The concept of a level playing field, a prerequisite for elections, he went on, also becomes irrelevant, adding, ‘Creating a balance between the pros and cons in the Chittagong City Corporation elections is therefore a big challenge for us.’
He said that it was essential that the EC was in control or else the polls would be ruined, adding that a fair election is a test of patriotism for all, regardless of party affiliation.
‘Elections are the only way to establish democracy,’ he said.
He said that the vote was a symbol of sovereignty of the people in an independent country, a sacred right.
The New Age correspondent in Chittagong reports: Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party mayoral candidate Shahadat Hossain on Monday demanded immediate release of the 69 leaders and activists of his party who were arrested in the last seven days.
He said that all BNP-backed councillor candidates would stage a sit-in in front of Returning Officer Hasanuzzaman’s office if the demand was not addressed.
Shahadat came up with the demand at a press conference at the BNP office at Kazir Dewri in Chattogram city.
He claimed that police had arrested at least 69 BNP people in 10 fabricated cases since January 19.
He also said that police arrested at least 20 more BNP activists the previous night from their residences.
Shahadat demanded immediate withdrawal of Kotwali police station officer-in-charge Nizam Uddin, claiming that he has acted in favour of the AL mayoral candidate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury.
No action was taken yet, he noted, by the returning officer though he has so far submitted 40 complaints to the officer pointing out various incidents of irregularities committed by the AL mayoral candidate and his activists.
A section of law enforcers and AL activists are trying to ruin the election atmosphere, Shahadat complained.
On the other hand, in an exchange with journalists at Bahaddarhat AL mayoral candidate Rezaul Karim said that the BNP was trying to dispute the elections raising allegations.
He said that the allegation of harassing BNP polling agents was totally wrong as the names of the polling agents of any party were yet to be declared.
In Dhaka, addressing a virtual press conference, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader on Monday said that the government would not interfere in the Chattogram mayoral polls.
‘The people of Chattogram will vote for whoever they like and the government will fully cooperate with the Election Commission in holding a free and fair election. The government will not interfere in the election,’ he said.
According to the Election Commission, there are 19,38,706 voters in the Chattogram city corporation area. Of them, 9,92,033 are male and 9,46,673 female.
A total of seven candidates are vying for the mayoral post while 172 contestants are in the race for the councillor positions in 41 general wards, with 57 candidates fighting for the 14 reserved-seat councillor posts for women.
Of the seven mayoral candidates, six are nominated by political parties while one is contesting as an independent candidate.
The six participating political parties are the Awami League, BNP, National People’s Party, Bangladesh Islami Front, Islamic Front Bangladesh and Islami Andolan Bangladesh.
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