Three cities - Rajshahi, Barishal and Sylhet - are going to crucial civic polls Monday amidst allegations of harassment and intimidation of opposition activists and rampant violation of electoral rules, particularly by the ruling party candidates.
Political analysts say the election commission will have to suffer from an acute crisis of confidence ahead of the 11 parliamentary polls in case of its failures to prove its efficiency the way it failed in recently-held Khulna and Gazipur civic polls.
The constitutional body is making preparations to announce the schedule for the general elections to be held in December under the Awami League government as per the current constitutional provision.
Country’s two longstanding political rivals - ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) - are contesting the city polls.
AL mayoral candidates of the three city polls claimed that people will elect them for the sake of development of their respective cities, while their BNP rivals aired doubts whether there will be any fair elections, reports UNB.
The voting will start at 8:00am and continue till 4:00pm without any break.
Five mayoral candidates are contesting the polls in Rajshahi, while seven mayoral contenders are running in Barishal and Sylhet each.
Among the mayoral candidates, ruling Awami League’s AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and BNP’s Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul are considered as front runners in Rajshahi, while AL’s Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah and BNP’s Mujibur Rahman Sarwar in Barishal and AL’s Badar Uddin Kamran and BNP’s Arifur Rahman in Sylhet.
The Election Commission (EC) has already sent the ballot papers, ballot boxes and other electoral equipment to every voting centre.
“The EC will do everything so that the voters can cast their votes in a free, fair and peaceful environment in three cities on Monday. The EC would not tolerate any sort of irregularity or laxity by the election officials,” said Helal Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the EC secretariat, according to BSS.
He also said, “The EC will take steps instantly if any irregularity is found at voting centres or if the situation goes out of control. The presiding officers will pass information to the EC through SMS (short message service) and the EC will take decisions from the head office on the basis of SMS information.”
He added that the government declared general holiday Monday in the three cities cantering the polls, BSS says.
UNB says in terms of security risks, there are 306 ‘important’ (vulnerable) polling stations out of 395 in the three city corporations.
A 24-member security team, comprising seven policemen with arms, three battalion Ansar men with arms, two embedded Ansar with arms and 12 embedded Ansar/VDP members with sticks will protect each ‘important’ (vulnerable) polling centre, while a 22-member security team will guard each normal polling station.
There are 114 ‘important’ polling stations out of 138 in Rajshahi City Corporation, while 80 ‘important’ stations out of 134 in Sylhet City Corporation and 112 ‘important’ stations out 123 in Barishal City Corporation.
Some 250 security teams of police, RAB, BGB, APBn and Ansar remain deployed either as mobile or striking force in Rajshahi, Barishal and Sylhet city corporations.
More than 200 teams of police, APBn and Ansar, and RAB were deployed as striking or mobile force in the election areas.
Besides, 44 platoons of Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB) -15 platoons in Rajshahi, 15 platoons in Barishal and 14 platoons in Sylhet - were deployed in the polling areas.
Apart from these, an executive magistrate remains deployed in each of 87 general wards, while a judicial magistrate in each of 29 reserved wards in the three cities to take action against violation of the election code of conduct.
Instead of ballot papers, electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be used in 15 polling stations -11 polling stations in Barishal and two each in Rajshahi and Sylhet -- to cast votes in the three city elections.
According to BSS, five candidates in Rajshahi city are in the election race for the mayoral post, while there are 160 contestants for 30 general councillor posts and 52 women contenders for 10 reserved councillor posts.
A total of 3,18,138 voters can exercise their franchise through 138 polling stations in Rajshahi city.
In Barishal city, seven candidates are contesting the election for the mayoral post, while 95 candidates are there for 30 general councillor posts, and 34 women contenders for 10 reserved councillor posts.
A total of 2,42,166 voters will be allowed to cast their votes under 123 polling stations in Barishal city.
In Sylhet city, seven candidates are running for the mayoral post, while 127 contestants are there for 27 general councillor posts and 66 women contenders for nine reserved councillor posts.
A total of 3,21,732 voters can exercise their voting rights through 134 polling stations in Sylhet city.
On 29 May last, the Election Commission announced the election schedules for the three city corporations.
According to Election Commission, a total of 3,18,138 voters are in Rajshahi City Corporation. Among them, 1,56,085 are male and 1,62,053 are female.
There are 2,42,666 voters in Barishal City Corporation. Of them, 1,21,436 are male and 1,20,739 are female. Besides, in Sylhet City Corporation, there are 3,21,732 voters. Of them, 1,7144 are male and 1,50288 are female.
In Rajshahi City Corporation, four candidates are contesting for the mayoral post. They are Awami League-backed AHM Khairuzzaman Litan (Boat), BNP-backed Mosaddek Hossain (Sheaf of Paddy), Islami Andolan Bangladesh-backed Md Shafiqul Islam (Hand Fan) and independent candidate Md Murad Morshed (Elephant).
In Barishal City Corporation, six candidates are contesting for the mayoral post. They are AL-backed candidate Sadek Abdullha (Boat), BNP-backed Md Majibur Rahman Sarwar (Sheaf of Paddy), Islami Andolan Bangladesh-backed Obaidur Rahman (Hand Fan), Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) candidate Abul Kalam Azad (Sickle), Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal candidate Manisha Chakrabarty (Ladder) and Jatiya Party candidate Md Iqbal Hossain (Plough).
In Sylhet City Corporation, seven candidates are contesting for the mayoral post. The candidates are- AL-backed Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran (Boat), BNP-backed Ariful Haque Chowdhury (Sheaf of Paddy), Islami Andolan Bangladesh-backed Dr Md Moazzem Hossain Khan (Hand Fan), Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal candidate Md Abu Jafar (Ladder) and independent candidates Ahasan Mahbub Jobayer (Table Watch), Md Ahasanul Haque Taher (Deer) and Md Badruzzaman Selim (Bus).
A total of 530 councillors are contesting in the three city polls.
EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) will be used at 10 centres in Barishal while two centres each in Rajshahi and Sylhet city polls.
Syed Amirul Islam is the returning officer at Rajshahi City Corporation while Mujibur Rahman and Md Alimuzzaman have been employed as returning officers in Barishal and Sylhet city respectably.