Irregularities, intimidation mark fifth-phase voting

The fifth phase of Upazila Parishad elections across Bangladesh ended on Monday with candidates withdrawing from contest in several places alleging large-scale rigging and intimidation.

Published : 31 March 2014, 03:54 PM
Updated : 31 March 2014, 05:34 PM

With the completion of voting in 73 Upazilas in the fifth round, elections have taken place in around 450 Upazilas out of 487. Balloting will be held in the rest of the local government bodies in May.

Thirteen chairmen candidates, including 13 BNP-backed aspirants, withdrew from the race alleging rigging.

Stray clashes took place in different Upazilas. However, no large-scale disturbances happened though balloting began in the morning amidst fear of violence against the backdrop of widespread rigging and clashes in the fourth phase.

A local activist of Juba League, youth front of ruling Awami League, was killed in Lakshmipur Sadar Upazila on Sunday evening in poll-related violence.

The BNP alleged that ruling party activists seized many polling centres and rigged votes during the balloting.

The party has called a half-day shutdown for Tuesday in Alamdanga and Sadar Upazilas under Chuadanga and in Sirajganj’s Shahjadpur alleging irregularities in the election.

Voting was supposed to be held in 74 Upazilas in the fifth phase, but election could not be conducted in one Upazila due to court’s stay order.

A total of 5,534 polling centres were set up for 13,891,751 voters in the 73 Upazilas on Monday.

Vote counting is going on in the centres following the casting of ballots from 8am to 4pm. Correspondents report BNP-backed candidates pulled out of the poll race in Ramganj and Sadar Upazilas under Lakshmipur, Alamdanga and Sadar under Chuadanga, Kalapara under Patuakhali, Kalaroa, Debhata and Tala under Satkhira, Araihazar and Ruganj under Narayanganj, Louhajong under Munshiganj, Madarganj under Jamalpur, Astagram under Kishoreganj and Ghatail under Tangail.

Awami League’s renegade candidates in Lakshimpur Sadar Upazila and Kalapara also boycotted the polls.

Clashes happened in Ghatail where polls were boycotted by pro-Jamaat and JP candidates, apart from BNP-backed aspirants.

In Lakshimpur Sadar, Awami League’s rebel candidate Mohiuddin Bakul announced t boycott elections two hours after the voting begun, alleging that supporters of pro-ruling party aspirant AKM Salahuddin Tipu captured polling centres and forced out his agents.

Half an hour later, BNP-backed aspirant in Ramganj Uapzila Abdur Rahman withdrew from the polls raising similar allegation against pro-ruling party aspirant AKM Ruhul Ameen.

In Chuadanga Sadar Upazila, pro-BNP candidate Mojibul Haq Malik Moju announced boycott of the polls at a press conference at Chuadanga Press Club at around 11am.

BNP candidate in Alamdanga also announced withdrawal from the election at a press conference at his residence in the Upazila town at around 11:15am.

Earlier, three candidates in Kalapara announced boycott of the voting at a press conference at the Upazila Press Club at around 10:30am.

They are pro-BNP Md Mostafizur Rahman, rebel Awami League aspirant Akhtaruzzman Kokka and Islami Shasontantra Andolong’s Habibur Rahman.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher