‘Please, let me cast the votes’ ; Underage students, polling officers helped ballot stuffing at Curzon Hall centre

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Polling officers helped ballot stuffing at Curzon Hall centre

Shahin Akhter

The polling station at Curzon Hall of Dhaka University on Tuesday presented vivid show ballot stuffing by the polling agents of ruling Awami League’s candidates with help from the election officers. The police on duty were also seen helping ballot stuffing.   Assistant polling officers and  on duty police were seen openly helping the agents of AL’s mayoral and councillor candidates in ballot stuffing while the presiding officer Md Hiron Chowdhury looked  the other way.

The centre’s voters were mostly teachers and employees and  the members of their families besides the students of DU dormitories, Fazlul Haque Hall, Dr Shaidullah Hall and Amar Ekushey Hall.

In the morning there were moderately long queues of voters.

After midday the ballot stuffing began as virtually no voters turned out to cast votes.    .

Up to 9.30 AM 94 votes were cast at the Curzon Hall centre.

Out of 22 polling agents at the centre 17 were of AL.

BNP’s mayoral candidate Mirza Abbas had two polling agents and both of them left the centre at about 12.30 PM after BNP withdrew.

The scenario at the centre quickly changed after Mirza Abbas’s agents left and AL’s polling agents joined by Chhatra League leaders and activists began stuffing ballots. The festival of ballot stuffing began at booth No 5 where AL’s polling agent Md Mehedi Hasan gathered youths for the exercise. Assistant presiding officer Sultana Yasmin gave them a free hand without checking their identities. At one stage Sultana invited New Age correspondent to cast five or six votes.

By 2.30 PM AL’s polling agents took control of the booths bearing the numbers 2, 3 and 7 by throwing out the assistant presiding officers. The assistant presiding officers of the other booths directly helped the polling agents of AL in stuffing ballots. AL’s polling agents called on duty police  when two journalists tried to talk to the voters. The polling agents complained to the police that the journalists were creating problems  by ‘asking questions to the voters.’

Many individuals were seen casting votes several times by hiding their fingers marked with ink and asking each other , ‘How many votes did you cast?’

Right from 8 AM when voting started, the polling officers showed no interest to mark voters fingers with ink.
After 3.30 PM, AL polling agent – Saifur Rahman – told New Age – ‘Please be seated and don’t roam around. We did not disturb you. As things are going end please don’t disturb us.’

They also took selfie shots using cell phones while stuffing ballots.

When asked, presiding officer Md Hiron Chowdhury told New Age that he would  make no comments on what was going on.

After voting ended at 4 PM, the count showed 1,120 votes had been cast with all the AL candidates – Sayeed Khokon, Farid Uddin Ahmed Ratan and Syeda Roksana Islam winning.

‘Please, let me cast the votes’

Ibrahim Hossain Ovi, Tahmidur Rahman

The remarkable enthusiasm of first-time voters showed during the city corporation elections yesterday was marred by the even bigger presence of fake voters.

Hundreds of young students were found posing as voters at polling centres in the Dhaka University areas in the city corporation elections yesterday.

There were two scenarios in the polling centres.

The real first-time voters were easily identifiable, busy taking selfies after casting their votes. They seemed to be happy just being able to vote; but many went to polling centres only to find that their votes had already been cast.

One such voter, seeking anonymity, said finding that someone else had cast their votes would definitely discourage young voters from exercising their right to vote in future.

The other group, who also posed as “first-time voters,” however, seemed more keen to keep their heads down and get as many ballot papers inside the ballot box as possible.

A young woman was caught red-handed while trying to cast the vote of an elderly woman at the Curzon Hall centre. She had also claimed to be a first-time voter.

She kept pleading with the polling officials, saying: “Please, let me cast the votes.” Later, pushed by some polling agents, the polling officials let her cast votes illegally.

Like her, many young men and women – some of whom seemed underaged – queued up at the polling centre asking to be allowed to cast votes on behalf of the absent voters, mostly those who had previously been resident students of Dhaka University but had graduated and no longer lived in the area.

Polling officers failed to prevent such illicit voting despite having adequate security.

When questioned about the vote rigging, the polling officers said they were helpless.

They said they had been threatened to silence by Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders of Shahidullah Hall and Fazlul Haque Hall.

“We cannot take any action if no incident of such vote rigging is reported,” Hiran Chowdhury, presiding officer of Curzon Hall polling centre, told the Dhaka Tribune.

When asked why they were so eager to cast other people’s votes, the fake voters said they were following their seniors’ instruction. But when asked about who these “seniors” were, they were reluctant to answer.

One of the fake voters, asking not to be named, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Not all of us are here by choice. We are resident students. We were forced to come here by the senior Chhatra League leaders in our hall. Not coming here would most likely result in us losing our place in the dormitory.”

And then he hurried towards a polling booth.

Source: New age and Dhaka Tribune