EWG: 90% polling centres were dangerous

A large amount of votes stamped in favour of "Hilsa fish" symbol at Suritola Government Primary School Centre

Incidents of massive violation of electoral rules, including ballot stuffing, intimidation, booth capture and clashes, undermined the integrity of the city corporation polls, the Election Working Group said yesterday.

“The situation at 90% of the polling centres was dangerous,” Kamrul Hasan Manju, an EWG steering committee member, said at a press conference.

The organisation reported a number of such incidents after observing the election process in the capital and Chittagong on Tuesday and disclosed their findings before the media at the National Press Club.

Kamrul said 26 EWG observers were not allowed to enter the polling centres, some observers were ousted, while 138 were barred from seeing the vote counting. Two of their observers were beaten in the Dhaka south area while performing their duties.

The EWG had deployed 619 observers in the two cities. Against their application for 1,414 ID cards, the Election Commission issued them 828.

It says the transparency of the process was damaged by significant hurdles the EWG had to face in receiving the accreditation and deploying observers.

Kamrul said forceful ballot stuffing, violent incidents, whimsical announcements of closing down polling centres, forcing agents out of the centres and threatening them with arrest, and weak law and order emerged during the polling hours.

“Only one or two polling stations were transparent and could complete the voting process,” he added.

TIB slams EC

The Bangladesh chapter of Berlin-based Transparency International has condemned the widespread vote rigging, violence and obstruction towards balloting at different polling stations during the city polls.

The corruption watchdog blamed the EC and the law enforcement agencies for their failure to hold credible and peaceful elections.

Moreover, it observed that the opposition parties have created a new risk in restoring a healthy atmosphere in the country’s political landscape by “controversially boycotting the city elections halfway through the polls.”

In a statement yesterday, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said as massive irregularities occurred in the city polls under political shelter flexing muscle, acceptability of the elections has became questionable.

“We are concerned since the EC, as a constitutional body, has failed to play its neutral and independent role in holding the elections. The EC itself has fallen into an embarrassing situation by not taking effective steps despite creditable information of vote rigging.

“The EC has not only failed to play its due role but also tainted its image by showing political bias,” he added.

Iftekhar also urged all the political parties to demonstrate tolerance and exercise democratic practices to maintain peace and discipline in public life.

AHRC for competent institutions

Terming the city elections fake, human rights defenders associated with the Asian Human Rights Commission yesterday said: “Rigging and ballot stuffing by ruling party cadres, polling officers, and law-enforcement agents reigned all across the two cities.”

The Hong Kong-based group said widespread violence by rival groups of the ruling political camps prevented voters from approaching the booths and casting their votes.

“By mid-day, the police and polling officers had asked voters of several jurisdictions to leave the polling centres, informing them their votes had already been cast. Many candidates were themselves not allowed to vote.”

In a statement, the AHRC also questioned the role of the EC since it had failed to take any action upon complaints lodged by the contestants.

They also condemned the attacks on journalists. “Despite challenges, the media has succeeded in exposing electoral manipulations in the newspapers and private television channels,” the statement said.

Source: Dhaka Tribune