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Elections are a most important component of democracy. It is a means for the people to hold accountable those at the helm of power. That is why elections are extremely significant. People look forward to the elections with much expectation.

The Dhaka north and south city corporation elections take place on Saturday. The opposition BNP mayoral candidates are campaigning strongly alongside the ruling Awami League candidates, indicating competitive polls. Till the last day of campaigning, the environment has remained relatively calm. There have been clashes here and there, but no extreme incidence of violence. Even so, the election environment is not above questions.

Various questions have been raised about the election environment. The ruling party and the opposition have both approached the election commission (EC) with all sorts of allegations and complaints. In most cases, the EC has taken no action against incidents of the code of conduct being breached. On the contrary, news of rifts within the EC itself has surfaced in the media.

As citizens, we hope that at least on the day of the election the EC exerts its authority. If a single untoward incident takes place, the EC must take immediate action so that the voters can vote freely and without fear. The EC can use this opportunity to conduct a free, fair and neutral election.

EVM (electronic voting machine) are being used in this election and there are all sorts of debates in this regard. The EC insists there is no chance for rigging with the EVM, but the opposition is suspicious. This election is an opportunity to create confidence in voting through EVM. It is the responsibility of the EC, the law enforcement and many others to ensure that the people are not obstructed in any way from casting their votes.

Before the elections, the candidates make all sorts of promises. The voters take into consideration these promises when they cast their votes. That is why the promises of the candidates should be meaningful and realistic. Those who are elected will have the opportunity to create a livable city. But in many cases, the manifestos of the candidates have no specific and realistic guidelines in this regard.

Dhaka has been identified as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The city is now filled with laminated election posters. Loudspeakers blare incessantly, campaigning for the candidates. The candidates have displayed complete negligence of the environment during their campaigns. That raises questions as to how committed the candidates will actually be in building a livable Dhaka once they win the election.

Alongside building a livable Dhaka, they must also ensure a women-friendly city. Those who win the election must be actively conscious about this. It must also be ensured that the women councillors are able to carry out their responsibilities. They must be given scope to do their duties and to advance ahead.

* Sultana Kama is a human rights activist. This piece appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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