At least 219 out of 904 mayoral candidates in the municipality polls are accused in different criminal cases, a civil society platform has claimed.
Of the accused, 33 have been nominated by the ruling Awami League and 96 by the BNP.
The rest are contesting the polls either independently or with support from the smaller political parties, Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), literally meaning citizens for good governance, said at a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium yesterday.
At the programme, it published a report on the background information of the mayoral candidates participating in the December 30 municipal elections, to be held on party lines for the first time.
The report says 36 mayoral aspirants, including seven from the AL camp and 15 from the BNP, have murder cases filed against them.
Sujan claimed its findings were based on the affidavits of 904 mayoral candidates in 232 municipalities.
According to the Election Commission, a total of 921 aspirants are contesting for the mayoral posts in 234 municipalities.
Sujan said it could not collect information of 17 contenders due to time constraint and "incomplete information" provided by some candidates in their affidavits.
Though the laws do not bar anyone from contesting the elections until they are convicted, the civil society platform questioned the nomination of candidates, who are accused in criminal cases, on ethical grounds.
"How can the parties nominate people, who are currently accused in criminal cases, for the mayoral races?" Sujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said.
"The BNP claim that their candidates are victims of politically motivated cases. But what will the Awami League say when they are now in the government?
"Is the Awami League confident that its candidates, accused in criminal, cases will be acquitted in the courts?"
The Sujan also found the AL has 79 candidates with wealth worth less than TK 5 lakh while the number of such BNP contestants is 99.
The number of mayor aspirants who have wealth worth Tk 1 crore or more is 20 for the AL and 13 for the BNP.
As for their academic qualifications, 25 percent of the total candidates were found to be high school dropouts.
Besides, 652 of the 904 candidates were businessmen, the report says.
The EC's role in the run-up to the elections also came under question.
"Some recent incidents have raised confusion among us if the EC can hold a free and fair election," said Badiul Alam Majumdar.
"The commission has left some allegations of polls code violation at the returning officers' discretion" which shouldn't have been done.
Referring to some irregularities at the municipalities in Feni, he said though the EC had the power to probe the incidents and postpone the polls, it didn't do anything.
The Sujan secretary also criticised the commission for assigning the election duties to local administration officials though it had enough manpower of its own for the jobs.
Dr Hamida Hossain, executive member of the Sujan, chaired the programme and Central Coordinator Dilip Kumar Sarker read out the report.