EC warnings fall on deaf ears
Ignoring warnings from the Election Commission, mayoral candidates in Monday's Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal city corporation elections continued to violate the electoral code of conducts with the electioneering ending this midnight.
The mayoral hopefuls as well as the councillor aspirants have lodged 139 complaints over such violations since the campaign started on July 10. The EC has served around a dozen show cause notices on the mayoral candidates.
During the electioneering, all the candidates went from door to door and held street rallies trying to woo voters with their electoral pledges. Allegation and counter allegation of polls code violation were also raised from rival camps.
A huge number of supporters of the candidates from the ruling Awami League joined the campaign trail. On the other hand, the presence of the supporter of the BNP candidates was thin apparently due to fear of arrest and intimidation by law enforcers.
Although the High Court has directed the law enforcers not to harass or arrest supporters and campaigners of any mayoral candidate until the elections were over, BNP candidates yesterday alleged that their party men were still being arrested.
Contacted, AL Presidium Member Muhammad Faruk Khan said, "The polls to the three city corporations have all the elements of a typical local government election. But the allegations that BNP candidates made lack rationality."
Despite having all these elements, he said, no major untoward incident took place in the cities. "I hope the voters will cast their votes in favour of development and democracy."
Meanwhile, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged that the EC was making a "mockery" of the elections.
"I talked with the election commissioners over the upcoming three city polls and they said they were trying [to hold a free and fair election]. I want to say that trying is not your duty, your duty is to hold a free, fair and credible election."
Fakhrul urged the EC to create a congenial atmosphere for the polls, and said, "Otherwise, resign from the office. If any election commission fails to transfer an OC or SP, that commission is not capable of holding any national election."
The EC has recently warned against the violation of the electoral code of conducts in the three city polls, saying it will take actions against the violators.
However in Rajshahi city, the mayoral candidates brought out huge processions, showcasing their strengthen. Some of the processions were participated even by children.
On behalf of AL candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, boats -- larger than the permissible size of three metres -- were placed at different points of the city.
One large boat was kept at a pond near Liton's residence in Kadirganj area while another with wheels and loudspeakers was used for campaigning.
Thousands of posters and banners of both the mayor candidates hung across the city. Many of those were larger than the advised size.
During his campaign, BNP candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul allegedly made "provocative" statements against Liton.
Returning Officer (RO) Sayed Amirul Islam said they received at least 82 complaints, most of which were related to violations of the code of conduct.
Although Liton was facing these charges of electoral rules violation, he himself filed 50 complaints against his opponents. Bulbul filed 21 while the rest were filed by different ward councillor candidates.
Talking to The Daily Star, the RO said, "I warned the candidates concerned at least twice for violating rules and also warned the police for harassing BNP men."
He said he served show cause notices on both Liton and Bulbul more than once, but only Liton came up with explanations.
There have been similar cases of breaching electoral rules in Sylhet.
Almost all the candidates were seen violating the rules during the end of the electioneering. The EC, on the other hand, was passing busy time making preparations for the polls.
In a clear violation of rules, Chhatra League yesterday brought out processions and chanted slogans in favour of AL candidate Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran.
Most councillor candidates were also seen bringing out processions. Supporters of many candidates roamed on motorbikes.
According to Section 11 of the City Corporation (Electoral Behaviour) Rules 2016, no procession or showdown can be brought out before the election.
On Thursday, eight chairmen of different upazilas in Sylhet division joined an electoral meeting at Hotel Gulshan in favour of Kamran.
While leaving the hotel after the meeting, they all carried posters and other electoral materials in their government vehicles.
Earlier on Tuesday, 14 upazila chairmen in the division campaigned for BNP candidate Ariful Haque Choudhury. While coming to the campaign programme, they also used government vehicles.
In the last few days, flocks of posters were seen in many parts of the city along with some bigger sized banners.
Proloy Kumar Saha, assistant returning officer of the election, said, "We have served show cause notices on two government officials for taking part in electoral campaigns and will take action against anyone if any complaints are filed with the EC."
Meanwhile, at an emergency press conference at his election camp around 10:00pm yesterday, Ariful alleged that the AL was trying to intimidate the BNP men in the city and destroy the polls environment.
Earlier in the day around 1:30am, miscreants riding two motorbikes threw a cocktail that blasted in front of an electoral camp of AL candidate at Chowkidekhi area in Ward 6. No one was injured in the blast.
In Barisal, a procession was brought out last night in favour of the mayor candidate from the AL, Serniabat Sadiq Abdullah. It is clearly a violation of the election rules.
At a press conference at the AL office yesterday afternoon, party leaders denied all allegations of breaching the electoral code of conducts and brought counter allegations against the BNP.
However, BNP leaders yesterday claimed that at least 15 leaders and supporters were arrested as law enforcers raided several houses in an "attempt to arrest BNP men".
Contacted, Afzal Hossain, information and research secretary of the central AL, claimed that police arrested only those men who were accused in specified cases.
Four new cases were filed against BNP men with three police stations in Barisal.
BNP mayoral candidate Mujibur Rahaman Sarwar yesterday submitted a written complaint to the EC over the arrest and harassment of their party workers. He demanded the EC ensure a congenial atmosphere for the polls.
Talking to reporters later, Sarwar said, "We are suspecting that the election in Barisal would be like the ones in Gazipur and Khulna." BNP alleges both the elections were marred by irregularities.
He called upon the voters to cast votes ignoring "all kinds of obstacle and intimidation".
Contacted, EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said a peaceful environment was prevailing in all three cities with no major untoward incident, excepting for a crude bomb blast in Rajshahi.
"If any incident of violation of code of conduct takes place anywhere, the returning officer and mobile courts will take steps against it," he said, adding that, "We will do everything necessary for holding a free and fair election."