Elections in Sylhet, Rajshahi cities get less competitive

Photo shows posters of various candidates ahead of Sylhet City Corporation election.
Prothom Alo

Bangladesh Islami Andolan has boycotted the election in Sylhet and Rajshahi city corporations following the attack on its mayoral candidate during the Barishal city polls. As a result, the contest that existed in the city elections due to the participation of several political parties amid the boycott of BNP, has also been destroyed. Now the elections in Sylhet and Rajshahi cities are also bereft of competition. Election observers said questions may arise on the credibility of the city polls without electoral competition.

Leaders of Awami League are not giving political importance to the boycott of Islami Andolon.

There was a little political contest in Barishal city among the five cities. The second senior leader of the Charmonai pir’s party Islami Andolon, Syed Muhammad Faizul Karim was a mayoral candidate in Barishal. The party reacted angrily following the attack on Faizul Karim during voting to the Barishal city polls on Monday. Islami Andolon demonstrated in Dhaka yesterday and announced the boycott of election in Sylhet and Rajshahi cities.

Other than the Islami Andolon, candidates from the opposition in parliament Jatiya Party are also contesting in Sylhet and Rajshahi city polls. But the leaders of this party are discussing whether candidates of Jatiya Party stay in the Sylhet and Rajshahi city polls or skip those following the incident of Barishal. A Jatiya Party leader told Prothom Alo a decision is likely on this issue at a meeting of the party’s presidium members today, Tuesday.

Islami Andolon has been participating in elections at union parishad to all levels when various political parties including BNP, which were waging anti-government movement, have been boycotting all elections under the Awami League government. Now Islami Andolon also boycotted the city polls. Islami Andolon ameer Syed Muhammad Rezaul Karim told Prothom Alo they would no longer participate in any election under the Awami League government. The message on Islami Andolon shifting its stance came in his speech centering the election in Barishal city.

Explaining the party stance, Syed Rezaul Karim mentioned the attack on his brother and party’s mayoral candidate Faizul Karim as a major reason for the boycott. He also alleged the election commission and the government made many promises that include ensuring level playing field for all, but this was not implemented at the grassroots.

Though BNP suspects Islami Andolon might maintain a relation with the government, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir issued a statement condemning and protesting the attack on Islami Andolon candidate in Barishal.

Islami Andolon, Jatiya Party and Zaker Party also fielded candidates in other city elections. But, there was no political contest in Gazipur city election held on 25 June where Awami League candidate conceded defeat to Zayeda Khatun, mother of Jahangir Alam who was expelled from Awami League. Several political parties including Islami Andolon took part in election in Khulna city, one of the two cities where election was held yesterday, Monday. Since they have no stronghold there, ruling party candidate Talukder Abdul Khaleque face no political competition. There was a little contest in Barishal because of the position of the Islami Andolon candidate.

Voting in Sylhet and Rajshahi will be held on 21 June. Islami Andolon also fielded candidate in both cities. However, Islami Andolon boycotted the election of these two cities and polls became without a contest entirely in Sylhet and Rajshahi.

Though various political parties including BNP boycotted election in five cities ahead of the national polls, there was an effort by the ruling party to show this election as a little more competitive, but now it is not being possible.

However, many leaders of the ruling party acknowledged election is not competitive anyway because of the boycott by Awami League's political rival BNP and that is why they are not paying attention to the boycott of Islami Andolon.

Awami League presidium member and agriculture minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque told Prothom Alo the election is not being competitive due to the absence of major political parties. A party like Islami Andolon does not hold the political power to contest against the candidate of Awami League. As a result, whether Islami Andolon joins the city polls or not carries no significance, he observed.

Concurrently, the government says elections are being held in a participatory manner in city corporations and polls will also be participatory in the remaining two cities – Sylhet and Barishal. Along with the government, the election commission claimed voting to the three city polls has been free and fair so far.

But, election observers explained it differently. Former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Sakhawat Hossain told Prothom Alo this election was not competitive despite the participation of Islami Andolon

Sakhawat Hossain thinks no city election was participatory and competitive. As a result, question on whether election was fair is not getting importance because of no competition.

Now the city election is neither participatory nor competitive, and election observers think questions will remain on the credibility of this election amid such circumstances.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna