The Election Commission has decided to deploy armed forces to maintain law and order during the upazila parishad elections to be held in phases from February 19.
The decision came following a meeting on law and order ahead of the upazila elections at the EC Secretariat yesterday.
“Armed forces personnel were deployed during the last upazila elections in 2009. Similarly, we have decided to deploy them this time,” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad told reporters after the meeting.
“We have recently conducted the national election. Our experience of that election was not so good because violence occurred in many places. So, we have decided to deploy the armed forces,” he said.
The CEC did not elaborate on the timeframe and the number of army personnel to be deployed during the polls.
The EC at the meeting, however, proposed to the principal staff officer of the Armed Forces Division (AFD) to deploy forces for five days beginning from two days ahead of each phase.
Principal Staff Officer of AFD Lt Gen Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, who was present at the meeting, agreed to the proposal, meeting sources said.
The meeting was chaired by the CEC and attended by four election commissioners, top officials of the home ministry, police, Rapid Action Battalion, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Coast Guard and intelligence agencies.
In the first phase, elections to 97 upazilas will be held on February 19.
At the meeting, officials of the intelligence agencies suggested that special security measures should be taken in the areas mostly inhabited by minorities to avert pre-election violence.
Officials of the law-enforcement agencies have agreed to the suggestion and assured the EC of taking necessary measures to that end.
The intelligence agency officials also claimed they had primary information that BNP-Jamaat would contest the upazila polls, though these elections are officially non-partisan.
On the basis of the intelligence reports, the EC and other government officials believe the upazila polls will be inclusive, participatory and credible, according to the EC officials.
The meeting also decided to appoint presiding and polling officers for the polls through proper screening so that officials with political connection are not selected.
Police officials said they would have to remain busy with different programmes like the SSC and HSC examinations, cricket matches and national days [21st February, 26th March]. So, police might give less attention to the polls compared to previous elections, said the EC officials.
In response to reporters' questions, the CEC said upazila chairman and other elected representatives of local government bodies would be allowed to contest the upazila polls, but they would be barred from enjoying government facilities during electioneering.
Elections to 117 upazila parishads will be held on February 27 in the second phase, announced the CEC yesterday.
The last date for filing candidacy is February 2, nomination papers would be scrutinised on February 4, and the last date for withdrawing nomination is February 11, he added.
The EC will hold elections to all 487 upazila parishads across the country in six phases. As part of its plan, the commission on January 19 announced that elections to 102 upazila parishads would be held on February 19 in the first phase.
Besides, the EC considers holding elections to 74 upazila parishads in the third phase on March 15, 72 in the fourth phase on March 25, 65 in the fifth phase on March 31, and 57 in the final phase on May 3, said the EC officials.
The EC yesterday postponed elections to four upazila parishads due to complexity over boundary demarcation.
Elections to Rangpur sadar, Gangachara, Pirgacha and Kawnia upazilas were scheduled to be held on February 19. But the Local Government Division on Tuesday in a letter informed the EC that it needed to demarcate boundary of these upazilas again.
Besides, the EC has deferred election to Pirganj upazila of Rangpur, which was scheduled to be held on February 19, because the by-election of Rangpur-6, which Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina relinquished, will be held on February 20.