A man was killed and several dozens were injured in the fifth-phase municipal vote on Sunday, which was marked by violence, irregularities and boycott by opposition candidates like the other phases.
In this phase, elections were held to 29 of the 30 designated municipalities. Polling was not held in Raozan municipality of Chattogram as the ruling Awami League mayoral contestant and the councillor candidates it backed were elected unopposed.
In Nilphamari, an activist of a councillor candidate was killed and at least four others were badly injured in a clash between supporters of two councillor candidates in Saidpur municipality. The police identified the deceased as Chhoton Adhikari, 51.
The injured four were hospitalised, said Saidpur police station officer-in-charge Abul Hasnat Khan.
He said that the whole incident would be investigated and the people involved in the killing brought under the purview of law.
Witnesses said that a number of followers of the two candidates for ward-5 — Nazrul Islam Royal and Akhter Hossain Fakir — got locked in a clash at around 11:30am.
Chhoton was seriously injured in the clash and was taken to Saidpur Upazila Health Complex where the duty doctor said that he was dead.
Meanwhile, at about 11:00am, Jatiya Party mayoral candidate Siddiqul Alam for the municipality announced that he was boycotting the polls.
With the death of Chhoton, at least eight people have been killed in electoral violence since the Election Commission on November 22, 2020 announced the schedule of the staggered municipal polls. Those killed included a councillor-elect.
At a press conference in Dhaka, EC secretary M Humayun Kabir Khandaker said that there were no injuries detected on the body of Chhoton.
‘The cause of Chhoton’s death will be clear after the autopsy report comes in,’ he said.
As in the previous four phases, many opposition mayoral and councillor candidates boycotted the vote protesting at what they said electoral irregularities.
According to New Age correspondents, polling agents of Bangladesh Nationalist Party mayoral candidates in a number of municipalities were forced out of polling stations.
The EC secretary, however, commented that boycotting an election was a choice of any candidate.
But he also said that the commission would take necessary steps if any candidate filed any complaint with the returning officer or the assistant returning officer or the EC.
Our Bogura correspondent reported that the police kept in their custody for an hour Bangladesh Chhatra League Bogura district unit’s publicity secretary Mukul Islam handcuffed as he illegally tried to enter the polling centre at Bogura College during the polls.
Police sub-inspector Rafiqul Islam said that the BCL leader tried to enter the polling centre illegally and misbehaved with the police personnel on duty when they asked him not to get into the centre.
He was released an hour later, added the police officer.
Our Lakshmipur correspondent reported that AL activists prevented voters from casting their votes as supporters of AL candidates pressed the button for the ‘boat’ symbol in electronic voting machines.
The New Age correspondent in Jhenaidah reported that BNP mayoral candidate Amirul Islam Khan Chunnu for Maheshpur municipality boycotted the polls, alleging rigging and the removal of his agents from polling centres.
He announced his decision at a press conference at the upazila BNP office at 1:00pm.
Apart from the boycott, returning officer M Rokanuzzaman claimed, the municipality election was held in a free and fair manner.
In Chandpur, Jatiya Party candidate DM Alauddin and Islami Andolan Bangladesh candidate Muhammad Shafiqul Islam Pradhan in Matlab municipality boycotted the vote alleging that AL people captured most of the polling stations in the municipality and forced voters to cast their votes for ‘boat’.
In separate press conferences they said that their family members were also barred from casting their votes.
Assistant returning officer M Abu Jaher Bhuyan claimed that there was no electoral irregularity in the municipality.
In Gazipur, at least two people were injured in a clash between supporters of two councillor candidates in Kaliganj municipality.
The clash started when a supporter of Ariful Islam, a councillor candidate with the ‘water bottle’ symbol, heard derogatory remarks hurled at them by a supporter of another candidate in Kashipur area.
Border Guard Bangladesh members came to the spot, intervened and brought the situation under control.
In Rajshahi, the police arrested four people for their alleged involvement in exploding crude bombs in polling stations of Charghat municipality.
Protesting the incident and other irregularities, BNP candidate Zakirul Islam boycotted the polls.
The Awami League and opposition BNP have fielded mayoral candidates and have backed councillor contestants in all the municipalities while other political parties, including the Jatiya Party and the Islami Andolan Bangladesh, not in all the municipalities.
The first-phase elections were held on December 28, 2020 in 23 municipalities.
Among those municipalities, the AL has secured 18, the BNP two and independent candidates have bagged three mayoral posts.
In the second-phase elections to 60 municipalities, the result of one municipality has been suspended.
Among the rest 59, AL candidates have bagged 45, BNP candidates four, Jatiya Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal candidates one each and independent candidates have secured eight mayoral positions.
In the third-phase polls in 63 municipalities, AL candidates have bagged 46 mayoral seats, BNP candidates three and independent candidates, including the AL rebel candidates, 14 mayoral slots.
In the fourth-phase polls in 56 municipalities, AL candidates have secured 49 mayoral seats, the BNP candidate has won one and independent candidates, including AL rebel candidates, have won three mayoral posts.
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