2nd phase voting today amid violence fear

Staff Correspondent | Published at 12:00am on January 16, 2021

In the second phase of the staggered municipal polls, 60 municipalities will go to polls today amid fear of violence in many places as tension has spread among the voters following clashes between the supporters of the ruling Awami League-backed candidates and its rebel candidates in Jhenidah, Rajshahi and other parts of the country.

Of the 60 municipalities, AL mayor candidates in Tarabo municipality of Narayanganj, Kazipur municipality of Sirajganj, Vangura municipality of Paban and Pirojpur municipality are already set to get elected unopposed as none are contesting against them.

The polling will be held through Electronic Voting Machines in 29 municipalities and paper ballots would be used in the rest of the 31 municipalities, Election Commission secretary M Alamgir said, adding that the commission and the returning officers have taken all necessary measures to check violence and irregularities in the polls.

The Election Commission will conduct municipal polls in four phases in the coronavirus situation.

The ruling AL and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party have candidates contesting for every municipality across the country for every councillor and mayoral posts while other political parties, including Jatiya Party and Islami Andolan Bangladesh, are contesting for every mayoral posts but not all the councillor posts.

EC secretary said that the commission has completed its preparations and it firmly believes that voting will be held peacefully.

The EC has also taken measures to prevent any kind of violence during and after the elections, he added.

He said health measures would also be strictly followed as the elections are taking place amid the COVID-19 situation.

In Shailkupa municipality of Jhenidah, two ruling Awami League activists were killed allegedly in clashes between rival groups on Wednesday night and  early Thursday. Liakat Hossain Baltu, 45, brother of councillor hopeful Shawkat Ali and another councillor aspirant Alamgir Khan Babu, both of them rebels, got killed in the space of five hours, Police said.

Following the death of Alamgir Khan, the EC postponed the elections for ward No 8 of Shailkupa municipality.

Besides, two other people were killed in violent clashes in the local government election of the Chattogram City Corporation.

New Age correspondent in Rajshahi reported that two supporters of AL candidate Md Shahiduzzaman for Arani municipality were severely hacked in an attack on them on Thursday night.

The injured were Bazlur Rahman, 45, general secretary of Nurnagar ward unit of Awami League and his nephew Arif Hossain, 30.

Both were admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital. Arif Hossain’s condition was critical and he was taking treatment at the ICU, OC of Bagha police station Nazrul Islam said.

At the hospital, Bazlur Rahman said that AL rebel candidate and the current municipal mayor Muktar Ali’s son Raju Ahmed and Muktar’s supporters attacked them while they were returning home in a motorcycle.

On Wednesday night, Muktar’s supporters first vandalised Shahiduzzaman’s election office and later set it on fire. The attackers exploded several crude bombs. Locals said that they heard gunshots during the attack.

An election office of Muktar Ali was also damaged by Bazlur Rahman’s supporters in a countering-attack.

New Age correspondent in Bogura reported that independent candidate Alamgir Shahi Sumon for Sariakandi municipality recently expressed his fear over poll violence in a press conference.

Sumon alleged that local lawmaker Shahadara Mannan’s son Shakhawat Hossain threatened the voters to cast their votes in the ‘boat’ symbol.

When contacted, the lawmaker, however, denied the allegation.

A total of 22.40 lakh voters are expected to cast their votes in 60 municipalities of 33 districts.

A total of 216 mayor aspirants are contesting the polls, while 2,232 councillor candidates and 724 candidates for women’s reserve seats are contesting the elections.

The first phase of the polls was held on December 28, 2020, amid rigging, low turnout and intimidation.

AL candidates won in 18 municipalities of the 23 mayor posts.