Final phase of UP polls today

Another 698 union parishads (UPs) go to the polls in the sixth and final phase today, after the electioneering and voting days in all the previous phases were marked by irregularities and deadly violence.

The voting starts at 8:00am and continues till 4:00pm, said Election Commission (EC) officials.

Like all the other phases, fear of violence remains particularly high at the unions where the Awami League (AL) chairman candidates and its rebel aspirants are at loggerheads over the polls.

Both groups belong to the ruling party and are desperate to win. They are so desperate that they can even apply force, leading to more violence, fear experts.

The districts where the AL has its dissidents include Comilla, Chittagong, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Kishoreganj, Habiganj, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Shariatpur, Gaibandha, Pabna, Naogaon, and Jessore, report our correspondents.

At least 121 people have been killed and over 8,000 injured in election-related violence across the country since the UP polls schedule was announced in February, according to media reports.

The voting day in the fifth phase on May 28 turned out to be deadliest. Twelve people were killed on that day alone.

In the latest incident of polls-violence, a man was killed and around eight people were injured as the supporters of two member candidates clashed over establishing supremacy in Boirag union of Anwara upazila in Chittagong yesterday.

The dead is Mohammad Faruk, 35, of the same union, reports our correspondent there.

The clash took place after the two groups swooped on each other with sticks and sharp weapons near Boirag Government Primary School around 5:30pm, leaving Faruk critically injured. He died later.

Shushashoner Jannoy Nagorik (Shujan), a body working for good governance, has said the death toll and irregularities in the ongoing UP polls have broken all previous records in Bangladesh.

 Around 27 people were killed in UP polls-related violence in 2011. The death toll was around 80 in 2003, 31 in 1997 and 80 in 1998, according to EC, Shujan, development organisation Democracy Watch and media reports.

Elections to around 3,290 UPs across the country were held in five phases from March 22 to May 28 this year.

Of them, AL-nominated chairman aspirants won in 2,195 UPs, BNP-nominated in 315 UPs, Jatiya Party-nominated in 41 UPs and independent candidates in 697 UPs. Candidates from other political parties sealed victory in the rest, according to EC and media reports.

Like the previous phases, around 18 AL-nominated and two independent chairman aspirants have been elected unopposed in today's polls, raising the total number of chairmen elected unopposed to 211 in all six phases.

The BNP has no candidate in around 65 UPs in this phase. With this, the party did not field a single candidate in total 550 UPs during the six phases.

Besides, members of several minority communities in different districts have come under attacks by miscreants in separate incidents over polls-related feud.

Against this backdrop, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikya Parishad and Ekattorer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee demanded that the EC take effective steps to end attacks on minorities.

Later on this May 31, the commission sent a letter to the home ministry, asking for necessary measures for ensuring security of voters, especially of minorities and women.

Experts, however, claimed that apart from sending the letter, the EC did not do anything else to check violence.

“The commission should have played a tough role in containing violence and election irregularities since the very beginning,” said Abdul Alim, director of Election Working Group (EWG), a platform of 28 civil society organisations.

 “The EC must have an absolute control over the field-level administration, if it really wants to hold a fair poll. But we haven't seen that absolute control.”

Meanwhile, the chairman and member candidates in Korerhat union of Mirersarai upazila in Chittagong and Ramchandrapur union of Muradnagar upazila in Comilla have been elected unopposed in today's polls.

As many as 54 unions in three hilly districts will also go to the polls today.