Voting ends through massive vote rigging

Photo: Presiding officer himself is casting illegally

Dhaka, BdChronicle:

Amid widespread allegations of capturing polling stations and vote fraud and boycott by BNP halfway through, voting in the elections to Dhaka south, Dhaka north, and Chittagong city corporations concluded at 4 pm 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.

BNP standing Committee member Barrister Moudud Ahmed announced the decision at a press briefing at BNP central office at Nayapaltan in the city at noon.

Later in the afternoon, citizen’s platform Agamir 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 8:00 am.  A total of 1188 mayoral and councillor candidates vied for 182 posts in the elections to the three city corporations, where some 60 lakh people are expected to exercise the franchise 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 (DSCC) around 8 am.

Awami League-blessed mayoral candidate of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCCA) Annisul Huq cast his vote at Banani Bidyaniketon School and College around 8:30 am while BNP-backed mayoral candidate for Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Tabith Awal cast his vote along with his family members at Gulshan’s Manarat International School in the morning.

BNP alleged that ruling party men with the help of law-enforcers drove out the polling agents of their party-backed candidates from nearly 500 polling stations of Dhaka north and Dhaka south city corporation polls within two hours of the start of the voting.

After the declaration, BNP-blessed mayoral candidates’ polling agents were virtually absent from the 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 in the 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 (DSCC) dropped dramatically following BNP’s decision to boycott the polls that came shortly after noon.

UNB correspondents visiting different polling centers, including Narinda Pathokoli Shishu Niketan found very low turnout of voters till 2:30 pm.

Hridoy Kor, a polling agent of Nizam Uddin, said about 50 percent votes were cast till 2:30 pm.

At West Dholaipar School, the voter turnout was only 20 percent around the same time.

The situation in Old Dhaka was similar as the polling in the centers was held amid low turnout of voters.

Voting at two polling centres in BADC High School under Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) could not be started even till 8:20am. Assistant presiding officer of the centre Ashok Kumar said they could not start the voting because polling agents had not arrived there till that time.

Voting at the polling station at Suritola Model Primary School in Bongshal area under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) remained suspended for about two hours from 9am to 11am following clashes between the supporters of rival candidates.

Meanwhile, UNB correspondents covering the voting from different polling centres in the two cities reported that polling agents of BNP-backed mayoral candidate for Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) were not allowed to enter the polling centres since the morning.

In Chittagong, BNP-backed mayoral candidate for Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) Manjur Alam boycotted the election bringing allegations of huge vote rigging.

The announcement came from a press conference at Manjur’s main election office at Dewanhat in the port city around 11:20am.

Besides, police arrested four supporters of BNP-backed mayoral candidate of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) Manjur Alam for distributing money among the voters in Khatiber Hat area of the port city early today.

Earlier, voting in the elections to Dhaka south, Dhaka north, and Chittagong city corporations began at 8am on Tuesday.

In DSCC, 20 contenders contested the election for the mayoral post, while 97 females for 19 reserved seats and 390 contestants for 57 general councillor posts. There are 18,70,753 voters –10,09,286 males and 8,61,467 females – under 4,746 booths of 889 polling stations.

In DNCC, 16 candidates ran for the mayoral post, while 89 females for 12 reserved seats and 281 contenders for 36 general councillor posts.

There are 23,45,374 voters –12,24701 males and 11,20,673 females— under 5,892 booths of 1093 polling stations.

In CCC, 12 contestants vied for the mayoral post, while 62 females for 14 reserved seats and 213 contenders for 41 general councillor posts.

There are 18,13,449 voters –-9,37,053 males and 8,76,396 females— under 4,906 booths of 719 polling stations.

On March 18, the EC announced election schedules for the three city corporations.

Source: BD Chronicle