12th parliamentary election ends with low voter turnout

Dhalpur City Corporation Adarsha High School centre in Jatrabari of the capital. Dhaka, 7 JanuaryShuvra Kanti Das

Voting in the 12th Jatiya Sangsad election has drawn to a close. Voting began today, Sunday, at 8:00 in the morning and ended at 4:00 in the afternoon. In most places of the capital and outside, the voter turnout was low. The turnout was lowest in the capital city. However, outside of Dhaka voters began turning up in increased numbers as the day advanced.

The election commission states that till 3:00 in the afternoon, 26.37 per cent of the votes had been cast.

Voting had not been unhindered all over. There had been attempts to rig the votes in certain places. One person was killed in an outburst of violence in Munishiganj. The industries minister's son was caught casting fake votes in Narsingdi. In a Dhaka-14 centre at Kalyanpur Girls School and College, the candidates' agents were forced to sign and handover the result sheets before the voting ended.

From the morning today, voting had been sparse. In the first two hours, that is, up till 10:00am, one 2 per cent of the votes were cast at City College in the capital

In a number of voting centres of the capital, it was seen that whenever the media of election observers turned up, a long line of voters was hurriedly formed. Once the media and observers left, the lines would disappear.

BNP and several other opposition parties boycotted this election. BNP's senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi today, Sunday, said, "A one-sided election was staged today."

From the morning today, voting had been sparse. In the first two hours, that is, up till 10:00am, one 2 per cent of the votes were cast at City College in the capital. There were very few voters at the Dhaka-7 Azimpur Girls School and College polling centre. In the first three hours, 70 voters cast their votes here. The number of voters registered at this centre is 2,914.

Outside the capital too, the number of voters was hardly mentionable.

There are 1,822 voters at the Rajshahi University School centre in Rajshahi-2 (Sadar). For two hours from 8:00 in the morning, only 20 votes were cast, that is, 1.9 per cent of the total votes.

However, there were reports of voter turnout increasing somewhat outside of Dhaka once the day advanced. Visiting polling centres in Gazipur-2 at around 1:00 in the afternoon, Prothom Alo correspondents saw 26 per cent of the votes had been cast in three centres.

One killed in violence

A supporter of the Awami League candidate Mrinal Kanti Das in Munshiganj-3 (Sadar and Gajaria) was hacked to death next to the polling centre. This incident took place Sunday morning at around 10:00am at Tengor of the Sadar upazila's Mirkadin pourashava. Munishiganj superintendent of police Mohammad Aslam conformed this to Prothom Alo.

The deceased Md Zillur Rahman was the vice president of Mirkadin pourashava Sramik League. His family says that he was attacked and killed by supports of the Munishiganj-3 'scissors' symbol candidate Mohammad Faisal.

There was an explosion at the main gate of Joypurhat Government Women's College centre. This took place at around 9:15 in the morning today, Sunday. Police arrived at the spot upon hearing the news. They claim that someone can blast a minor explosive to spread fear.

A one-sided election is being held today. There are no voters in the voting centres. Votes were stuffed in the ballot boxes at night in this election too
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, BNP senior joint secretary general

False votes

Voting in the Narsingdi-4 constituency was suspended on allegations that 12 ballot books of one centre had been snatched away for false votes to be cast in favour of the 'boat'.

Narsingdi's returning officer and deputy commissioner Badiul Alam suspended the voting at around 9:00 in the morning. This false voting incident took place at around 8:00 in the morning at the Ibrahimpur Government Primary School of Belabo upazila's Sallabad union. The allegations of casting false votes were levelled again Manzurul Majid Mahmud Sadi, son of the 'boat' candidate of that seat, industries minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun.

There were allegations that the polling agents of independent candidate of Chattogram-12 (Patia), Shamsul Huq Chowdhury, were not allowed to enter the centres. The candidate's chief election coordinator Nazmul Karim told Prothom Alo at around 11:00 in the morning that their agents were not allowed to enter or were evicted from at least 20 centres.

Long lines for the cameras

In most centres of seats around the country including the capital, artificial queues were hurriedly formed whenever the media cameras or observers turned up. Once the cameras and observers left, so did the "voters".

At around 12:00 noon at Banani Model School in the capital, a long line of voters was formed before a foreign observer arrived there. Once the observer left, the centre fell almost completely vacant.

There are four polling centres at Banani Model School in the Dhaka-17 constituency. These four centres are for women voters of the Korail area.

A visit to Banani Model School at around 11:15 in the morning saw a few voters standing in front of the booths. Suddenly a large number of women voters appeared at around 11:25am. The line grew so long that that it went out of the school grounds onto the road.

Most votes cost in Khulna, least in Sylhet

Election commission sources say that till 2:40pm Sunday, the highest number of votes had been cast in Khulna division and the lowest in Sylhet. In Dhaka division 25 per cent of the votes had been cast, in Mymensingh 29 per cent, in Chattogram 27 per cent, in Rajshahi 26 per cent, in Khulna 31 per cent, in Rangpur 26 per cent, in Sylhet 22 per cent, and in Barishal 30 per cent. The overall percentage of votes hasn't been known as yet.

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Rejected by the opposition

BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi has said that the people have rejected the 'dummy election'. He said, "A one-sided election is being held today. There are no voters in the voting centres. Votes were stuffed in the ballot boxes at night in this election too."

Ganatantra Mancha leaders have termed this as a "voter-less election". They made this remark at a rally organised in front of the National Press Club in the capital this afternoon, calling  for a "vote boycott". Speaking at the rally, Nagorik Oikya president Mahmudur Rahman Manna called the election a "dummy vote". He said, "There are no people. There are no voters. This is a voter-less election."

Gonoforum (Montu) and Bangladesh People's Party have said that people are not going to cast their votes. The leaders were speaking at around 2:00 in the afternoon in front of the National Press Club in the capital. Prior to the rally, the two parties brought out processions in the Press Club and Purana Paltan areas.

Few agents of other parties

In many centres no agents of any parties other than that of the 'boat' were found. In the Chattogram-2 (Fatikchhari) centre, the voter turnout was sparse in the morning but as the day progressed, the number of voters began to increase. This was noted during a  visit to the five centres. While there are eight candidates in this centre, only three  had agents in all the centres. The remaining five candidates had no agents.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Anwar said he had not seen any agents in the polling centres other than those of the 'boat'. He said, "Those whom I saw were all of the same party. They were polling agents for the boat. I did not see any agents of the other candidates." The CEC was speaking to newspersons returning to his office in the Nirbachan Bhaban after casting his vote.

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