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19 March, 2019 12:33:49 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 19 March, 2019 10:25:13 AM

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2nd phase of UZ  elections held

EC Talukder for reforms to local govt polls process
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
2nd phase of UZ  elections held

Like the first phase, the second phase of the upazila parishad (UP) elections was held yesterday peacefully barring the murder of seven election officials in Rangamati yesterday. According to the latest poll results of 116 upazilas under 16 districts 24 candidates were elected uncontested as chairmen.

But with a low turnout of voters as the country’s major political parties, including the BNP, boycotted the polls. So far, 12 candidates, including an Awami League candidate, boycotted the polls due to alleged stuffing of ballot boxes, ballot snatching and vote rigging.

In the second phase, elections were in 116 upazilas in 16 districts. Voting began at 8am and continued till 4pm. Vote counting was on till filing of the report.

A total of 377 candidates contested for the chairman’s post, 548 candidates for vice-chairman’s post. There were 400 contenders for the women vice-chairperson’s post.

As per the Election Commission (EC), 1.8 crore voters were supposed to cast their votes in around 7,039 polling stations.

According to our local correspondents, however, the attendance of voters in yesterday’s second phase of polls was significantly poor. While visiting different vote centres, our correspondents also reported of vote rigging and other irregularities in many polling stations.

In Moulvibazar, the AL-nominated candidate for Rajnagar upazila, Askir Khan, boycotted the election over alleged irregularities. In a written complaint to the returning officer, the AL candidate said: “I boycotted the polls as fake votes were being cast in almost all the polling stations, but the police did not extend any cooperation in making the polls free and fair.”

Askir Khan, who was nominated as the ruling party’s contestant for the Rajnagar upazila chairman’s post, also accused the supporters of rebel AL candidate Shahjahan Khan of conspiracy and violence during the polling.

Rajnagar police station in-charge Shyamal Bonik said he was yet to receive any information in this regard, but promised that he will look into the matter.

Another allegation of clash between two rebel AL candidates was reported from Kanaighat upazila of Sylhet district around 2.30 pm.

Sources said that Momin Chowdhury, a contestant for the chairman’s post fighting under the “boat” symbol, found that the supporters of Mustak Ahmed Polash, a rebel AL candidate, were illegally casting votes on behalf of his electoral sign of “Motorcycle” at the Monsuria Kamil Madrasa polling centre in the upazila.

When Momin protested, the rival supporters engaged in a clash. At least five people from both sides were injured. The policemen on-duty brought the situation under control and voting at the centre was postponed for an hour.

Additional deputy commissioner (General) Sandweep Kumar Singha said the election was held peacefully and counting of votes had started.

Additional superintendent of police (Sylhet), Mahbubur Rahman, said: “Except for some untoward situations at some polling centres, the election was held peacefully.”

Overall, voting in 19 upazilas of Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts were held peacefully. However, voters’ attendance was relatively low compared to last time.

From Bogura’s Gabtoli, our local correspondent reported a low attendance of voters. Even no vote was cast in some polling booths in two hours.

Polling officers were seen taking a break in Ranipara Government Primary School in Bogura’s Sonatala upazila. However, the ballot box was only half full around 1:30 pm.

Five among the 12 candidates were running for chairman, while the other seven were vying for the vice-chairman’s post in Rangamati’s Baghaichari, Naniarchar and Kaukhali upazilas.

The candidates alleged that the ballot boxes were filled the night before and people were prevented from casting their votes.

These candidates announced boycott of the polls and wrote to the district’s returning officer and additional deputy commissioner to scrap the election.

Bara Rishi Chakma, a candidate supported by Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS), and three vice-chairman contestants also announced a boycott one hour into voting. “Votes were being cast since Sunday night by intimidating people with firearms,” Rishi Chakma said after announcing his decision to boycott the polls.

He further alleged that his supporters and voters were prevented from going to the polling centres yesterday morning.

Naniarchar chairman candidate Rupom Dewan made similar allegations before pulling out of the race with two other chairman aspirants and four vice chairman candidates.

In Kaukhali, JSS supported candidate Arjun Moni Chakma withdrew from the race as well.

Nanirachar upazila nirbahi officer Masud Parvez Majumder said he has received an application by the candidates calling for voting to be scrapped. “I have informed the returning officer about the situation,” he added.

Rangamati returning officer SM Shafi Kamal said that he had heard of the matter.

EC claims peaceful polls

 Meanwhile, Election Commission secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed claimed that the second-phase UP elections were held in a free, fair and credible manner except for some stray incidents of violence.

At a press briefing at Nirbachan Bhaban, the EC secretary said polling was suspended at only seven centres and voting would be held there later.

“We are yet to know the exact voter turnout. As far as we know, the voter turnout was different in different upazilas. In Dinajpur, Rangpur and Sylhet districts, the turnout was satisfactory, while it was low in Cox’s Bazar and Naogaon districts,” he said, adding that the turnout was low because many political parties had not participated in this election.

Asked about the statement of election commissioner Mahbub Talukder that yesterday’s local government elections were one-sided, the EC secretary said it was his personal comment.

Meanwhile, 48 candidates have been elected uncontested in the second phase of UP polls.  The fifth edition of the UP polls is being held under party banner for the first time.

This year, elections to 480 upazilas will be held in five phases. As per the election schedule, the third phase will be held on March 24, the fourth phase on March 31 and last phase on June 18.

Another report adds: Election Commission (EC) Mahbub Talukder yesterday said the local government election process needs reform in order to make elections participatory and meaningful.

He said the power of electoral reform is not relegated to the EC. It is a political decision of the ruling quarters. Election management should be solely at the hands of EC.

The EC came up with the remarks while talking with journalists at the Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital’s Agargaon area yesterday.

He said the national election shouldn’t only mean as a process of handover of political power but it should be considered as system to uphold democracy and its continuity.

Raising questions about the winners in the upazila elections, said that those who are elected without any contest, we can call them selected instead of elected.

Talukdar expressed his disappointment over the upazila elections and said that “I want to say this election as ‘wonderful’ election.

He said the upazila election lost its fervor as the opposition did not field candidates and the voters were not interested to exercise their franchises in a lopsided election.

“The people’s lack of interest in the election is an ominous sign for democracy.”

He said the reform to the election system is not the duty of the Election Commission. The onus lies with political parties and forces in power. Election to the local body will be held in which way or system, it depends of the ruling government.

However, he expected that if any free, fair, acceptable, credible, legal and open election is held in future with equal opportunities for all candidates, all parties should be participate in the polls.

He said if the EC is vested with necessary and decision-making power as to when and how the elections will be held; the voter turnout couldn’t be so frustrating.

Everyone knows how the elections are being held but those who are beneficiary of the system in place wouldn’t speak up against the process.

MK

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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