Voting ends amid allegations of widespread rigging, boycott

— Sanaul Haque

Amid widespread allegations of capturing polling stations, rigging and boycott by Bangladesh Nationalist Party halfway through, voting in the elections to Dhaka south, Dhaka north, and Chittagong city corporations concluded at 4:00pm on Tuesday. BNP boycotted the elections to all the three city corporations in Dhaka and Chittagong bringing the allegations of massive vote rigging by pro-Awami League men with the help of law enforcers and polling officials, reports United News of Bangladesh. BNP standing Committee member barrister Moudud Ahmed announced the decision at a press briefing at BNP central office in the city this noon. Later in the afternoon, Ganasamhati coordinator and Dhaka north’s mayoral candidate Zonayed Saki also rejected the polls. ‘We’ve decided to reject the polls after we observed a number of incidents of vote manipulation and irregularities,’ he said terming the election unfair. Alleging widespread rigging, Saki said: ‘Ruling Awami League has usurped the citizens’ right to vote.’ With the voting period drawing to a close for the Dhaka North and Dhaka South city corporation elections, a very low turnout was reported from across different areas of the capital. The polling began at 8:00am. A total of 1,188 mayoral and councillor candidates vied for 182 posts in the elections to the three city corporations, where some 60 lakh people were supposed to exercise their franchises in 2,701 polling stations. Of them, 48 candidates contested polls for three mayoral posts, while 249 for 45 reserved seats and 891 for 134 general councillor posts in the cities. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina cast her vote at Dhaka City College polling centre under Dhaka South City Corporation around 8:00am. Awami League-blessed mayoral candidate of Dhaka North City Corporation Annisul Huq cast his vote at Banani Bidyaniketon School and College around 8:30am while BNP-backed mayoral candidate for Dhaka North City Corporation Tabith Awal cast his vote along with his family members at Gulshan’s Manarat International School in the morning. After the declaration, BNP-blessed mayoral candidates’ polling agents quit polling stations in the capital amid strong presence of the supporters of ruling party-backed mayoral candidates, visited by UNB correspondents. Visiting a number of polling centres in Mirpur section 10, Mirpur section 2, Kafrul, Mirpur section 6, Uttara, Gulshan, Rampura, Fakirapool, Shahjahanpur, Shantinagar, Bailey Road, Segunbagicha, Motijheel, Old Dhaka, Dhanmondi, New Market, Badda, Banasri and Banani areas, UNB correspondents found only around 15-20 percent vote were cast in most of the centres till 2:00pm. Supporters of ruling Awami League-backed mayoral and councilor candidates, mostly drawn from the AL’s front organisations, swarmed outside the polling centres and across major points of those areas under the two cities. However, polling agents of other candidates, including BNP-backed mayoral candidates Tabith Awal and Mirza Abbas were found absent in most of the polling centres. Voter turnout in booths across Dhaka South City Corporation dropped dramatically following BNP’s decision to boycott the polls that came shortly after noon.

Source: New Age