AL set for win in JS polls tainted by fraud, flaws

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 01:09, Dec 31,2018 | Updated: 11:22, Dec 31,2018


Ruling Awami League looks set for a big win in the 11th parliamentary elections marred by widespread intimidation of voters, polling agent ouster, centre grabbing, massive ballot stuffing and clashes on Sunday.
AL-led Grand Alliance bagged 193 seats, opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front five seats while independent candidates got two, according to unofficial results updated till 1:30am.
Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party is going to lose deposits in most seats for not getting one-eighth votes cast in the polls, according to electoral law.
AL chief Sheikh Hasina is going to become prime minister for the third consecutive term, which would be her fourth term, after announcement of the official results.
At least 17 people were killed in different districts in clashes on the day, according to the police headquarters.
Seven of the dead were of Awami League, five of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, one of Jatiya Party and four others common people including a hawker, assistant inspector general of police (media) Sohel Rana said.
Of the dead, two were killed in Chattogram, two in Cumilla, two in Rajshahi and one each in Cox’s Bazar, Bogura, Brahmanbaria, Noakhali, Narsingdi, Sylhet, Gazipur, Jashore, Laxmipur and Dinajpur, according to our correspondents in the districts. Scores of people were also injured in the clashes.
Voting at 22 centres across the country were suspended, Election Commission secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said adding that re-election might not be required as it would not affect the result.
Most of the polling stations were under control of the ruling Awami League activists.
Opposition polling agents were forced out of the polling stations in many places, while many opposition candidates did not place agents in polling centres in their respective constituencies.
There was presence of fake agents who did not even know the candidates they were representing.
Over 100 opposition candidates declared their boycott of polling several hours after beginning of the polling alleging that the ruling party activists stuffed ballots in scores of centres in presence of police in their respective constituency since last night.
Scores of voters in many polling centres alleged that they faced difficulty in casting votes due to mismatch between the voter numbers they got from online services set by the Election Commission with the voters list with the polling officials in their respective constituencies.
In most cases, the polling officers deceived the voters who were not carrying voters numbers mentioned in voters slips provided by agents of respective AL candidates.
Stuffing ballot papers inside polling booths with long cue of AL activists outside the booths for keeping voters in waiting in a strongly controlled manner was common in polling stations.
At many places, voters in general, female voters in particular, and journalists were barred from entering the polling stations.
Opposition agents and journalists were not allowed during counting of ballots in most of the polling stations in spite of prior assurance of the chief election commissioner.
Hundreds of voters failed to cast their votes for suspension of polling in centres equipped with electronic voting machines while many others alleged that they were intimidated by AL agents while casting votes using the machines.
Ruling AL men in many centres kept the voters on watch and dictated them to cast voter for boat, symbol of the AL.
Election camp of BNP were seen hardly anywhere.
In Dhaka, various techniques of vote rigging were ‘used’ at University Laboratory School and College centre on Dhaka University campus during the polling.
Some of the AL activists, who were too young to be voters, cast votes one after another in the presence of the presiding and polling officers. They distributed more than one voter numbers to one person and gathered in queues to cast votes of other people.
Several AL activists were seen beating BNP polling agents after they arrived at the Government Primary School centre at Dhanmondi 2 before the start of the polling.
Activists of Dhaka 10 candidate Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh told New Age that the people they beat were thieves and came to the centre for stealing mobile phones.
New Age correspondent also witnessed that the AL activists also threatened the voters who came to the polling centre and forced them to vote for boat.
The AL campaigners were also seen patrolling the polling centre in a group of 20 to 30 people at a time.

Clockwise from top left, prime minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina casts her vote at Dhaka City College polling station, and ballots litter a centre at Ashuganj in Brahmanbaria after it came under attack on the polling day. — New Age and Focus Bangla photos

Several underage people were also noticed in the voting lines who were not actual voters although they claimed that they came there to cast their votes.
Like at Khodeja Khatun Government Primary School of Bangla Motors, many under-18 boys were seen in the polling lines with clear absence of actual voters.
Tejgaon College centre at Farmgate under Dhaka 12 constituency was seen fully occupied by Awami League activists at about noon.
They were seen chasing and beating up people suspecting them as BNP activists in front of police.
They allowed no journalists to enter and attempted to beat up reporters including that of New Age while they were observing the centre from a distance.
Polling took place in a controlled environment in centres of Dhaka 12 constituency where home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal is a candidate.
No polling agents of BNP and Ganasamghati Andolan candidates were seen at Nakhalpara Hossain Ali High School housing six polling centres during 8:00am to 11:00am.
Police, however, did not bar the AL activists when they entered in group into the polling centres.
Jahangir Alam, presiding officer of polling centre-5 located at the school, said that no agents of sheaf of paddy, electoral symbol of BNP, came though he had been waiting for them with their identity cards.

Army personnel patrol a road outside a polling centre at Uttara in Dhaka on Sunday as part of their duty in the 11th national polls. — Indrajit Kumer Ghosh

Some voters, who could not enter Shaheed Zia High School centre at Basabo under Dhaka 8, said the line was managed to show a big turn-out of voters.
Police even checked the notes of journalists inquiring what they were writing at Government Titumir College centre at Mohakhali under Dhaka 17 around 12:45pm.
The presiding officer was not found but an assistant presiding officer, Sohagh Rana, declined to comment.
There was no BNP agent at eight booths of National Ideal School centre and only two agents at two booths, out of around 20, at Khilgaon Model College under Dhaka 9 constituency.
Polling officers and agents of Awami League claimed that no BNP agents for most of the booths arrived at the centres while two agents left after one hour of voting.
They, however, said that they did not know the reason for the non-arrival and departures.
In all the centres, Awami League activists gathered posing as ‘volunteers’ in aid to the polling officials.
Some opposition candidates including BNP national standing committee member Mirza Abbas and his wife Aforza Abbas, who were contesting for two Dhaka constituencies, did not cast their vote protesting at irregularities in the polls.
Election commissioner Mahbub Talukder on Sunday said that he did not find any opposition polling agent when he went to Ispahani Girls School and College in Dhaka to cast his vote.
At Monohoria Government Primary School centre of Keraniganj under Dhaka 2, a group of youths was seen stuffing ballots in a room which was a not a dedicated polling both.
Presence of voters at this centre was thin. Presiding officer of the polling centre declined to make any comment in this regard.

Voters queue up outside a polling centre at Motijheel Ideal School and College in Dhaka on Sunday. — New Age photo

In Narayanganj about 11:30am, police chased scores of voters who were protesting at keeping the gate of Morgan Girls High School centre shut for over two hours. Police officer-in-charge Quamrul Islam declined to comment.
In Chattogram, AL activists were seen active inside almost all polling centres, checking and interrogating voters. Some of them were identifying unknown faces.
In Sylhet, Halima Khatun, a voter enlisted with the Bethsandi Primary School centre at Bishwanath under the Sylhet 2 constituency, alleged that she could not cast her vote as the polling officer told her that her vote was already cast.
Opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front chief Dr Kamal Hossain alleged massive ballot stuffing since last night by ruling Awami League activists.
Over 100 candidates of the alliance boycotted the polls, he said.
He rejected the polls and demanded cancellation of the results and fresh elections under a non-party government.
Opposition BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir described the polling ‘a cruel mockery’. ‘This is the death of democracy,’ he told journalists at Syedpur airport on his way to Dhaka on Sunday afternoon.
Islami Andolan Bangladesh, which fielded candidate with hand fan symbol, described the 2018 general elections as a ‘black chapter’ in Bangladesh history.
The polling started even before formal opening as the ruling party men stuffed ballot boxes on a rigging spree, IAB joint secretary general ATM Hemayet Uddin said, according to a press release. Zonayed Saki, chief convener of Ganosamhati Andolan, rejected the election on Sunday citing irregularities, including vote rigging and polling centre grabbing by AL activists.
Chief election commissioner Nurul Huda claimed that the polling was largely satisfactory with some stray incidents. The election commission had nothing to do as some candidates did not place their agents, he said.
A small group of foreign and local observers on Sunday said vote casting was going on smoothly.
Indian observer Gautom Ghosh said ‘there is peace when they see breach of peace in some other countries,’ according to United News of Bangladesh.
British MP Rupa Huq said in a tweet the polling ‘result already reminding me of words of Lemmy – ‘doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins.’
Nimisha Jaiswal, India Correspondent of DeutscheWelle, said a gentleman [who claimed that he was representing the opposition BNP] showed up and took his spot as a polling agent with no name, no photo. On the streets too, we found several different “agents” with party IDs, but no names.
Bangladesh Police chief Mohammad Javed Patwary claimed that apart from a few isolated incidents, the polling was largely peaceful across all the country.
A total of 10,42,38,677 voters — 5,25,72,365 male and 5,16,66,312 female — were listed to exercise their franchise as the polling was held in 299 constituencies out of 300 seats. Election to Gaibandha 3 was suspended due to the death of a candidate.
Some 1,861 candidates including 1,733 persons nominated by political parties and 128 independent candidates contested in the polls.
Of the partisan candidates, 282 candidates contested with BNP’s electoral symbol sheaf of paddy, 272 candidates with boat, the electoral symbol of the ruling Awami League, 175 candidates of Jatiya Party led by HM Ershad with the party’s symbol plough and highest 298 candidates of Islami Andolon Bangladesh with their electoral symbol hand fan.
Four candidates of Liberal Democratic Party, five each of Krishak Sramik Janata League and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Bangladesh, 15 of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD (Rob), two of Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP, 10 of Khelafat Majlish and one of Bangladesh Kalyan Party candidates contested the polls alongside the BNP’s sheaf of paddy.
Three candidates of Workers Party of Bangladesh, 23 of Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, eight of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and 16 of Bangladesh Tarikat Federation candidates were in the race with their own symbols alongside with AL’s boat.
Eighteen opposition candidates contested from prisons and most of them were taken to jail after submission of nomination papers.
Opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia and other 26 candidates of the alliances, led by the party, were not in the race as the court cancelled their candidature after submission of petitions, in most cases, by rival Awami League-led alliance candidates.
The casting of vote was held in 2,07,312 polling booths set at 40,183 polling stations.
The 10th parliamentary elections was held on January 5, 2014, amid boycott by most parties including BNP demanding an election-time non-party caretaker government.
The AL had got absolute majority in this polls with 154 members of the House were elected uncontested making Sheikh Hasina prime minister for the second consecutive terms.

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