‘Nice’ voting amid ‘stray incidents’, says EC
Published: 2014-03-15 16:37:43.0 BdST Updated: 2014-03-16 04:58:42.0 BdST
Ballot boxes were snatched, torched and supporters of rival candidates fought pitched battles in several places during the third phase of Bangladesh’s Upazila Parishad polls.
The Election Commission (EC) admitted there had been 'stray incidents' of violence during Saturday’s elections at 81 Upazilas but said voting was largely ‘peaceful’.
The voting begun at 8am and ended at 4pm. Results from the local government bodies were pouring in after the counting of votes begun.
“Minor violence occurs in a big election, these are merely isolated incidents,” Election Commissioner Md Shah Nawaz had told reporters at a briefing.
The BNP all day long had been claiming that Awami League-backed aspirants had illegally occupied many polling centres.
However, Election Commissioner Abdul Mobarak, who supervised the polls in the absence of the Chief Election Commissioner, claimed in the evening voting was held ‘nicely’.
The BNP, which is clearly ahead in the local government body polls after the first two phases, alleged that a carnival of invading polling centres had taken place in the third phase.
Rejecting their allegation, Awami League said that the polling was fair. They said the administration was neutral and did not even spare the ruling party-backed candidates.
A person was shot dead while trying to snatch ballot papers during the polls at Shariatpur’s Naria while another body was found in Bagerhat in the morning.
Ballot papers were snatched and burnt at Jessore’s Manirampur, Lakshmipur’s Komolnagar, Shariatpur’s Naria, Chandpur’s Hajiganj and Kachua, Feni’s Dagonbhuiya, Bhola Sadar and Kurigram Sadar.
Although the first phase of the polls in mid-February had been somewhat peaceful, the second phase witnessed violent clashes at various places and death of one person.
This time, the tendency to attack polling centres and snatch ballot boxes was prominent compared to the last two phases.
Md Shah Nawaz said, “These small isolated incidents of violence took place due to the presence of rival groups. The law enforcers promptly swung into action whenever the situation got out of control. Overall voting has been peaceful in most of the areas.”
Abdul Mobarak said, “Some untoward incidents did take place and polls were suspended at some places. Balloting ended peacefully as proper timely steps were taken.”
He, however, did not want to hold any political party responsible for these acts of violence.
“It’s not a question of failure. There was no failure (of the EC). Violence cannot be contained before it takes place. But whatever happened, those responsible won’t be spared. Legal steps will be taken,” Mobarak said.
He also did not take BNP’s harsh criticism of the EC into account.
“It will take more time before holding violence-free elections. Maybe that will happen in our country one day. Maybe there won’t be any violence when people’s thoughts will become more mature and abstinent,” said Abdul Mobarak.
Voting took place at 5,456 polling centres at 81 Upazilas in 41 districts. Over 1,100 candidates are vying for the posts of chairman and male and female vice-chairman.
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