All the mayoral candidates in the upcoming Gazipur City Corporation (GCC) elections, except ruling Awami League nominated candidate Azmat Ullah, have expressed concerns over the fairness of the polls. They have raised questions over the role played by the persons with electoral duties.
The candidates alleged that the level playing field has not been ensured during the election campaign. The probable polling agents are also being intimidated. Therefore, they are concerned as to how would the situation be on the voting day.
Even the voters of the city corporation are also concerned about the situation. Prothom Alo has spoken to leaders of various political parties, representatives of professionals and common voters regarding the election situation.
They say that the electioneering of the Awami League nominated candidate went in full swing. They also complained about the level playing field in the election. Therefore, they are quite concerned whether they will be able to cast their votes or not.
Voting to the Gazipur City Corporation will be held on 25 May. The election campaign ended at 11.59 pm on Tuesday.
Independent candidate Jayeda Khatun has sent letters to several diplomats expressing concern over the fairness of the election. Islami Andolon candidate Gazi Ataur Rahman also sent a letter to the returning officer regarding the indecent behaviour of the administrative officials and obstructions he was facing during electioneering.
Jatiya Party (JaPa) candidate MM Niyaz Uddin and independent candidate Shahnur Islam also expressed concerns regarding the fairness of the polls.
In the three-page letter sent to ambassadors of different countries, Jayeda Khatun raised a seven-point demand, including the deployment of the army. She also urged the diplomats to send observers in the election. The letter was sent to ambassadors of different countries, including the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, China and India.
However, Awami League’s mayoral candidate Azmat Ullah Khan has termed the letter as an attempt to question the fairness of the election.
Speaking to the newspersons at his residence on Monday, Azmat Ullah Khan said, “I have no idea why she raised the allegations. It’s a heinous attempt to question the fairness of the election. The election commission (EC) can take any sort of initiative for a fair election.”
I have no idea why she raised the allegations. It’s a heinous attempt to question the fairness of the election
In the letter sent to the diplomats, Jayeda Khatun further alleged that ruling Awami League candidate Azmat Ullah Khan has been hindering her election campaigns by carrying out attacks and intimidating the probable polling agents.
Even the police are harassing her apparently for no reason. She also had lodged complaints to the returning officer several times in this regard, Jayeda claimed.
Asked about this, Md Faridul Islam, the returning officer of the Gazipur city polls, said, “The allegation is not true that we didn’t take any actions following Jayeda Khatun’s complaint. She lodged complaint only once. A case has also been filed over the allegation she made. I do not know anything about the letter she sent to diplomats.”
Independent candidate Jayeda Khatun alleged that several members of Gazipur Metropolitan Police are harassing and intimidating her leaders, activists and supporters in various ways. She also alleged Awami League candidate Azmat Ullah Khan has spent a huge amount of black money to influence several police members. She demanded that the election commission must instruct police not to harass and arrest her leaders, activists and agents without any warrant.
Regarding the allegation, Gazipur Metropolitan Police commissioner Mollah Nazrul Islam told Prothom Alo that no instruction was given to harass anyone. Action would be taken if there is any specific allegation on harassment, he added.
Eight candidates have been contesting for mayoral post in the Gazipur city polls. Former mayor Zahangir Alam had become an independent candidate after failing to secure party ticket from the Awami League, but his nomination paper was cancelled after scrutiny. Since then, he has been working as the chief election coordinator of his mother Jayeda Khatun, who is being considered as the main contender of AL candidate Azmat Ullah.
Majority of the candidates are in doubt whether there would be a free and fair poll. Bitter experiences from the last election and influence of the ruling party candidate before this election could be the reasons
Though BNP is not taking part in the polls, Sarkar Shahnur Islam, nephew of BNP central executive committee member Hasan Uddin Sarkar, is contesting the election as an independent candidate. Hasan Uddin Sarkar was the mayoral candidate of BNP in the last Gazipur city polls.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Sarkar Shanur Islam said, “We are facing obstacles during our campaign in various ways. We are apprehensive whether voting will be fair or not. There were no polling agents except that of 'boat' (the electoral symbol of Awami League) at the polling centres after 11:00 am in the city election in 2018. This time too our activists are frightened to become agents. Questions remain on how much neutral the law enforcement agencies would be in the election.”
Islami Andolon candidate became third in the 2018 election. This time, Gazi Ataur Rahman is the candidate of this party. He sent a letter to the returning officer accusing the administration of harassing the party men. In the letter, he said Islami Andolon leaders and activists are being harassed in different ways. If this continues election would not be free, fair and impartial. He cited in the letter six specific incidents of harassment.
Speaking to Prohtom Alo, Gazi Ataur Rahman said, “We are very apprehensive of the administration and boat (AL electoral symbol) activists, and we can in no way expect a fair election in this situation.”
Civil society platform Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) expressed its concerns over Gazipur city polls at a press conference on Monday. SHUJAN central coordinator Dilip Kumar said doubt, confusion and fear is rising among the candidates over the attitude of polls-related people.
SHUJAN's Gazipur unit general secretary Iftekhar Shishir said majority of the candidates are in doubt whether there would be a free and fair poll. Bitter experiences from the last election and influence of the ruling party candidate before this election could be the reasons. There is also confusion over the role of election commission since the commission and the administration were seen behaving differently with independent candidates and the ruling party candidate, he added.
* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Hasanul Banna