By-elections to three parliamentary constituencies -- Dhaka-10, Gaibandha-3 and Bagerhat-4 -- begun on Saturday morning amid the threat of novel coronavirus infection in Bangladesh.
Over one million people are eligible for exercising their franchise in the three constituencies. The voting began at 9:00am and will continue until 5:00pm without any break, reports news agency BSS.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being used in Dhaka-10 while traditional ballot papers in Gaibandha-3 and Bagerhat-4.
At a regular media briefing on COVID-19 at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) in capital’s Mohakhali on Friday, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) professor Nasima Sultana said voting in EVMs carries the risk of coronavirus contamination, news agency UNB reports.
However, returning officer of Dhaka-10 by-elections GM Shahatab Uddin on Friday said they have taken cautionary measures following the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
"There'll be sanitiser and hand tissue in every polling booth. Banners will be there urging voters to wash hands before pressing the EVM button to cast votes," he said.
As of 10:00pm on Saturday, nearly 11,400 people died and over 275,000 infected in the deadly virus, said worldometers.info.
Earlier on 19 March, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party demanded the election commission (EC) to suspend elections to Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) and by-polls to five parliamentary seats due to the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country.
At the same time, the party also demanded closing the courts for a temporary period
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir made the demands at an emergency press conference at the party chairperson's Gulshan office in Dhaka.
Awami League and Jatiya Party are taking part in all the constituencies, but another major political party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is running in two constituencies -- Dhaka-10 and Gaibandha-3.
BNP has fielded no candidate in Bagerhat-4 as its candidate's nomination paper was declared invalid there.
In Dhaka-10 (Dhanmondi and Lalbagh), there are 321,275 voters under 117 polling stations in the constituency comprised of wards 14-18 and 22 of Dhaka South City Corporation.
Six candidates, including AL's Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin) and BNP's Sheikh Rabiul Alam, have been contesting in the Dhaka-10 by-polls.
The four other contestants are Jatiya Party's Hazi Md Shahjahan, Bangladesh Muslim League's Nabab Khawza Ali Ahsan Askari, Bangladesh Congress's Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury and PDP's Abdur Rahim.
The Dhaka-10 fell vacant as the ruling party MP Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh resigned on 29 December to contest the Dhaka South City Corporation elections.
Gaibandha-3 (Sadullapur-Palashbari upazilas): There are 435,211 voters under 132 polling stations in the constituency that fell vacant following the death of Awami League MP M Eunus Ali Sarkar on 27 December.
Four candidates, including AL's Umme Kulsum Smriti and BNP's Moynul Hasan Sadik, are contesting the Gaibandha-3 by-elections. The two other contenders are Jatiya Party's Mainur Rabbi Chowdhury and JASAD'S SM Khademul Islam Khudi.
Bagherhat-4 (Morelganj and Sharankhola upazilas): A total of 316,510 people have voting rights under 143 polling stations in the constituency that fell vacant after the death of AL MP Mozammel Hossain on 10 January.
Two candidates, AL's Amirul Alam Milon and Jatiya Party's Sajon Kumar, are competing in the Bagerhat-4 by-polls.
The election commission on 6 February announced the by-elections schedules for three parliamentary constituencies.
There is a constitutional obligation for the election commission to complete parliamentary by-elections within 90 days after the constituency concerned falls vacant.