Bangladesh braces for final round of union council elections that have left over 100 dead

After over 100 deaths in polls-related violence, voting in the final round of the six-phase union council election is going to be held on Saturday.

Moinul Hoque
Published : 3 June 2016, 07:59 PM
Updated : 3 June 2016, 07:59 PM

The Election Commission will organise the balloting in 698 union councils that will start at 8am and close at 4pm.

Facing harsh criticisms over violence and irregularities in the previous rounds, the commission hopes to do “better” this time around.

EC Secretary Md Sirazul Islam said on Friday the home ministry had been asked to keep the security agencies on “maximum alert”.

Chairman and member candidates in two Union Parishad bodies in this phase have already been elected unopposed.

A total of 4,085 UPs are up for grabs in the ninth polls to the lowest tier of local government for the first time on party lines.

Around 18 political parties have taken part in the election, but the main battle pits the ruling Awami League against its rival BNP.

The two major parties have been blaming each other for the violence and irregularities during the election.

Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbub-Ul Alam Hanif has said the election has been “fair despite some random incidents”.

BNP Standing Committee member Nazrul Islam Khan has termed the election “a farce”. He has alleged the EC is not taking steps even after seeing Awami League supporters storming election centres.

National Election Observer Council Chairman Prof Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah told he was hoping for ‘something good’ in the last phase.

“Killing in the name of vote is unacceptable. We hope the EC will use the law-enforcing agencies to control the whole situation. The political parties will have to help too.”

But Election Working Group Director Abdul Alim is not hopeful of ‘anything new and good’ taking place.

“It’s difficult to be hopeful about something new amidst all this violence. The Election Commission and the parties will have to work together. We’re just waiting to see what happens in the end,” he said.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin has called for change in the “mindset of winning at any rate– even at the cost of lives”.

He has said no irregularities will go unpunished.

According to the EC, the voter turnout had been 74 percent, 78 percent, 76 percent, 77 percent and 76.8 percent, respectively, in the first five phases.

In those legs, the Awami League has secured as many as 2,267 chairman posts, independent runners 696, while the BNP managed only 310.

Sixth phase at a glance

>> Voting will be held in 698 union councils of 92 Upazilas in 46 districts

>> More than 11 million people are expected to cast their votes at 6,500 polling centres

>> 3,223 candidates are running for posts of chairmen, over 25,000 for general members and over 5,000 for reserved seat members

>> 27 Awami League chairman candidates have already been elected uncontested

>> More than 100,000 polling officials and around 150,000 members of law-enforcing agencies have been posted in the polling areas

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher