All the mayoral candidates in Barishal polls, except ruling Bangladesh Awami League's Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah, have voiced concerns over fair polls, fearing that there might be a recurrence of election irregularities in the civic polls.
Addressing a views-exchange meeting organised by the very election commission, six out of seven mayoral mayoral candidates said they cannot rely on the election commission with regard to holding a free and fair election slated for 30 July.
The views-exchange meeting was organised at the auditorium of Sher-e-Bangla Medical College on Monday.
Referring to the widespread irregularities in Khulna and Gazipur mayoral polls, the six mayoral aspirants said that the commission had assured that it would ensure free and fair polls in Gazipur and Khulna, but for all practical purposes the elections were not free and fair.
They said election commission’s failure to hold free and fair polls in Gazipur and Khulna has made them worried about the upcoming Barishal city polls.
Fearing that ruling party men might stuff ballot papers into the boxes in the night preceding the voting day, main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) mayoral candidate Mujibur Rahman Sarwar asked the election commission not to send the ballot boxes and ballot papers to the polling stations on the day before the polling day.
“Send ballot papers to the voting centres just in the morning of the election day.”
Pointing his finger at the election commissioner Mahbub Talukdar - the chair of the meeting - Jatiya Party's Iqbal Hossain said, "I have nothing to say if you think the city polls in Gazipur and Khulna were fair. If you say that nothing [wrong] happened there, I'll say that what occurred there was done by you."
Islamic Andolan Bangladesh candidate Maulana Obaidur Rahman said he cannot rely on the election commission after seeing the city polls in Gazipur and Khulna.
Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal's (BSD) mayoral candidate Manisha Chakraborty alleged that one of mayoral candidates is violating almost all the electoral rules. She, however, did not mention the name of the candidate.
Awami League's candidate Serniabat said he wants fair elections. He raised various allegations against his rival candidates.
In response, election commissioner Mahbub Talukdar assured the mayoral candidates that there would be no incidents of vote rigging or any sorts of election irregularities in Barishal city polls.
Mahbub also said Barishal city polls would not be like that of Khulna and Gazipur, rather it will be free, peaceful and impartial.
"It'll be a model election. The [upcoming] national election will be held following Barishal city polls."
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain.