The recently-held Gazipur City Corporation (GCC) election was "controlled" like the Khulna City Corporation (KCC) polls, where the main rival candidate was "removed from the field" with help of law enforcement agency, said Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) yesterday.
Shujan observed that the GCC polls followed the trend of “Khulna model” and it speculated that the three upcoming city polls in Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal will be held in a similar fashion.Similar to Khulna, polling agents of the BNP-nominated mayoral candidate in Gazipur were harassed in various ways and were obstructed from performing their duties, the citizen's rights platform said.
Shujan made the observation during a press conference at Dhaka Reporters' Unity.
On May 15, Awami League-backed mayoral candidate Talukder Abdul Khaleque won by a large margin in the KCC polls, which were marred by irregularities such as heavy showdown by the ruling party in and around polling stations, ballot stuffing and driving out polling agents of opponents.
On June 26, AL-nominated mayor candidate Md Jahangir Alam defeated BNP's Hasan Uddin Sarker in GCC polls.
Shujan said during both polls, ruling party workers exercised muscle power to forcibly take control of centres, spread fear and create anarchy around the centres, which resulted in casting of abnormal percentage of votes in some polling stations.
The Election Commission was largely inactive despite complaints of voting irregularities and harassments by law enforcement agencies, it said.
Shujan's President Hafiz Uddin Khan said these patterns of irregularities were experimented during the KCC polls and applied in the GCC polls.
“We are worried that these could be used in the upcoming three city polls,” he added.
Shujan Secretary Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar hoped that the EC will play a more effective role during the upcoming elections.
“The Khulna and Gazipur elections were not conducted in a manner which the EC is responsible to do,” he said.
The civic right platform came up with an eight-point recommendation for the EC to make the upcoming city polls credible.
The EC should take precautionary measures from now on, for the next elections after taking into account the irregularities of GCC polls. It should investigate all the complaints and ensure punishment for the perpetrators, it said.
Reading out a written statement, Shujan's Central Coordinator Dilip Kumar Sarkar said money was a key factor in determining results in the GCC polls, but the EC has failed to control the spending of excessive amount of money there.
He also said of the 425 GCC polling centres, 61 saw casting of 73 to 94 percent votes, while 40 centres saw cast of 14 to 40 percent votes. Those were abnormally high and turnout was low, he said.
Of the 71 newly-elected public representatives, educational qualifications of 39, or 54.92 percent, are either SSC pass or bellow, he said.
Human rights activist Hamida Hossain was also present at the briefing.