UZ vote ends with low turnout, 4 polls halted

Voters turned out in low numbers for the Upazila polls that came to a close at 4pm, while voting in some centres was disrupted and called off altogether in four Upazila on Thursday. The Election Commission suspended polling in Borura Upazila in Comilla, Belkuchi Upazila in Sirajganj, Brahmanbaria Sadar Upazila and Ramganj Upazila in Laxmipur on charges of irregularities. In total polling has been postponed in a total of six of the 481 Upazila across the country. Updates 7
Published : 22 Jan 2009, 05:16 AM
Updated : 22 Jan 2009, 05:16 AM
Dhaka, Jan 22 ( – Voters turned out in fewer numbers for the Upazila polls that came to a close at 4pm, while voting in some centres was disrupted and called off altogether in four Upazila on Thursday.
Election commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain told that polls had been postponed in a total of six of the 481 Upazila.
Voting in Ukhia Upazila in Cox's Bazar was called off on Wednesday night and Dighinala Upazila in Khagrachhari on Jan. 15.
The Election Commission called off voting to another four Upazila during polling hours Thursday.
Election commissioners sat in a meeting over a number of allegations that surfaced during the day's voting that started at 8am.
They halted the voting in Borura Upazila in Comilla, Belkuchi Upazila in Sirajganj, Brahmanbaria Sadar Upazila and Ramganj Upazila in Laxmipur on charges of irregularities. Sirajganj correspondent said balloting was stopped at Belkuchi Upazila after the workers and supporters of ruling Awami League barred voters from casting ballots.
Sirajganj deputy commissioner Humayun kabir told they had taken the decision to postpone polls considering the overall situation.
Witnesses said voters could not cast their ballots spontaneously as the AL activists attempted to take over centres. Many centres saw low turnout as a result, they claimed.
Four-party alliance-backed chairman candidate Fakhrul Islam Faruk withdrew his candidature from Companyganj Upazila polls in Noakhali, alleging attacks on his supporters, takeover of polling centre and indifference of administration.
Voting was suspended for half an hour in Baktarchar High School centre in Keraniganj as the polling agents of 'Rickshaw' symbol allegedly snatched 77 ballot papers around 10:30am.
People and the police held Shahidul Islam, Muluk Chan, Suruj Zaman, Moslem and Abu Taleb.
Dhaka district police superintendent Nazmul Hossain admitted the incident.
"Some enthusiastic people in the guise of polling agents made trouble. They are being handed to the magistrate for trial."
The mobile court of Dhaka additional chief judicial magistrate Shahjahan Kabir sentenced five people to three years in jail and fined Tk 4,000 each.
The situation was brought under control, he said.
The Rapid Action Battalion and police were present on the spot.
The supporters of Awami League-backed candidate AFM Babul attempted to take away ballot papers at Kalikapur Government Primary School centre at Sonaimuri Upazila in Nokhali. As they failed they tore a number of pages of the voter list from the two polling booths.
Voting was suspended in the centre for half an hour.
The agents clashed with the presiding officer when he tried to obstruct them.
Sonaimuri police chief Babul Chandra Banik and executive magistrate Pradip Singh came to the scene after a while and brought the situation under control.
The voting resumed after a new voter list was brought from the Sadar Upazila.
Voting was disrupted at Shimulia Government Primary School of Guagachhia union under Gazaria Upazila in Munshiganj after ballot papers were snatched.
Polling agents of a candidate broke the ballot box and fled with ballot papers around 10:30am.
The presiding officer of the centre also fled the scene later.
Troops went to the spot instantly and brought back the presiding officer there.
Deputy commissioner Mahbu Ul Islam acknowledged the incident and said they were yet to identify the perpetrators.
The voting was interrupted, he said.
Police held a school student, Jewel, with a pistol at Baushia Government Primary School under Gazaria Upazila.
Gazaria police chief Faruk Hosain said: "We have kept the detainee in the custody. We are yet to know the candidate he was working for."
Supporters of two candidates of Panchasar union under Mushiganj Sadar Upazila were involved in an altercation in Panchasar Junior School centre .
The supporters of Anisuzzaman Anis, an AL-backed candidate alleged that the supporters of BNP-backed candidate Salauddin Khan Swapon had been trying to influence the voters.
The situation became quiet after judicial magistrate and assistant returning officer came to the spot. The supporters were taking position outside the centre.
Cox's Bazar
Voting was stopped for 20 minutes at Kakara High School at Chakaria in Cox's Bazar after workers and supporters of two chairmen candidates clashed at the start of voting.
Chakaria Upazila Nirbahi officer and assistant presiding officer Kamrul Alam said he was not aware of the incident.
Elections to Ukhia Upazila in Cox's Bazar were called off on Wednesday night over violence that left around 80 injured.
A case was filed accusing some 500 people, Ukhia police chief Mustafa Kamal said.
Violence in Natai Government Primar School of Natai union of Brahmanbaria Sadar Upazila left the presiding officer injured.
MK Masuk was admitted to Brahmanbria Ssadar Hospital in critical condition.
A group of miscreants came to the polling centre at around 10:30am to establish control over the centre. As the presiding officer obstructed them they attacked him.
Voting was called off there instantly.
Five people were injured in the occurrence but the could not be identified immediately.
The army and election officers brought the situation under control and the voting resumed later.
The polling centres of four Upazila in Netrokona saw few voters until midday.
There was no long queue anywhere. Election officers said the chilly weather and heavy fog might have discouraged the voters to show up.
There were a very few voters at Joy Hori High School centre at Kendua Upazila. Presiding officer Abdul Hai said some 450 votes were cast until 11:30am.
Ramnagar High School centre had only 150 ballots cast until 10:30am.
There was, however, a significant number of voters in Kendua Model Primary School. Presiding officer Fazlur Rahman said some 600 votes were cast shortly before midday there.
Durgapur Primary School centre presiding officer AKM Shamsul Alam said the national elections saw 50-60 percent casting by the midday.
People were not seen very keen on the Upazila polls, he said.
Supporters of two chairman candidates clashed in the morning in the centre. But the police came and brought the situation under control instantly.
Voter Al Amin said people would appear in the centres in the afternoon after they were done with their daily chores.
Ten people were injured in a clash between supporters of two chairman candidates at Char Bhabanipur polling centre of Berar Upazila. Police arrested Mujahid Hossain Mohan and Shahin.
Presiding officer Abdul Hai said they had continued with voting amid the violence.
Police arrested a man, Abdur Rahim, from Islampur Government Primary School centre at Koira Upazila on charges of casting fake ballot.
The mobile court sentenced him to two months in jail.
The mobile court jailed a polling agent to six months for barring voters from casting votes and attempting to influence people to vote for a particular candidate.
Three other people were arrested at Rampura Government Primary School centre.
Voting was halted from 11am at Jouta Primary School at Baufal Upazila after a group of people had created chaos.
Two people were detained at Kalapara Upazila for driving motor bike in the prohibited electoral area.
Supporters of AL-backed candidate Maheb Hossain allegedly tried to take over Ratanpur Government Primary School at Mehendiganj Upazila and clashed with the police.
Voting was halted for an hour there, Barisal police superintendent Toufique Mahbub Chowdhury said.
Voting was halted for an hour at Brahmanbari Government Primary School at Khazuria union of the Upazila after supporters of two candidates clashed, Upazila Nirbahi officer Khan Md Nurul Amin said.
Poor turnout
The scenario in the polls to the local government bodies was reverse to the national elections where some 87 percent ballots were cast.
Fewer than 50 ballots were cast in the first hour of Al Nasir Laboratory School polling centre of Hemayetpur Upazila in Savar.
Presiding officer Kazi Raqibul Islam told "The turnout in these polls was much poorer compared to the parliamentary elections."
There were more security guards than the voters in Singail Harindhora Government Primary School centre.
Assistant presiding officer Siddiqur Rahman blamed the low presence in the morning on fog and cold weather.
Local people expressed reluctance to cast ballots as they said they did not know the candidates.
Savar University College witnessed a similar situation; there were very few voters in the centre.
Presiding officer Hasanuzzaman said the number of voters in the centre was 3356. The first two hours saw fewer than 200 votes cast whereas more than 800 votes were cast by that time in the national polls.
On the poor casting, he said voters might not be too keen on the polls as the major elections were held only a few days ago.
He did not believe cold weather or fear discouraged them from appearing in the polling centres.
Imtiaz Bulbul, a voter waiting outside the centre said the government had already been formed. "What will this election do for us?" he asked.
Fourteen people are contesting for chairman post, 20 for vice chairman (10 men and four women) in Savar.
Voting on the whole continued peacefully at 14 Upazila in Chittagong amid poor turnout in many centres.
The number of voters was thin in Patia AJ Chowdhury College and Talimul Haque Madrassa, Foujdarhat KM High School and some other polling centres in the first two hours.
According to the presiding officers, the turnout was less than seven percent while it was 25-30 percent in the national elections.
Anwara High School polling centre presiding officer Akhteruzzaman said the voters did not seem interested in the elections.
He said he hoped more voters would turn up later.
"We will be under pressure if too many voters come to cast ballots later because one voter will have to cast three ballots, which takes a good deal of time," Akhteruzzman added.
Modinatul Ulum Madrasa centre in Gazipur also saw thin attendance, with the polling officers sitting idle in their desks.
Gazipur Sadar Police Station sub-inspector Mithu Sheikh told the number of voters was 'very low' in the centre.
Coming out of the centre, Ripan Devnath, a voter, said people were not coming as the Upazila polls were 'less significant to them'.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher