Mayoral candidates of the ruling Awami League clinched a landslide victory in yesterday's election to 234 municipalities amid allegations of widespread electoral irregularities.
AL candidates secured 179 mayoral posts while their rivals from the BNP got 21. And AL rebels obtained 19 posts.
Ruling party men resorted to electoral irregularities in at least 80 municipalities with the local administration looking on. They stuffed ballot boxes and drove BNP candidates' agents out of polling centres, according to reports from The Daily Star correspondents.
At least 36 mayoral candidates of the BNP, Jatiya Party and other political parties either boycotted or demanded fresh polls, citing irregularities in the municipal election held on party lines for the first time.
The Election Commission suspended polls in Madhabdi municipality of Narsingdi following massive irregularities. Voting was postponed in 38 polling centres of 18 municipalities across the country, according to the EC.
Journalists were barred from covering polling at different centres.
In many polling stations, AL's youth and student fronts played the leading role in controlling the voting process with law enforcers turning a blind eye to the irregularities.
The ruling party men intimidated BNP leaders and activists and prevented them from discharging duties as polling agents. In many centres, polling agents of BNP candidates were absent, report The Daily Star correspondents.
Despite heavy presence of law enforcers in electoral areas, at least two dozen municipalities saw sporadic violence, which marred election festivity and dampened voters' enthusiasm. This time, however, violence was less intense than in the previous local body elections.
A man was killed, as supporters of two councillor candidates traded gunshots in Satkania upazila of Chittagong. The dead was identified as Nurul Amin, a shopkeeper in Boaliapara area of the upazila.
Followers of councillor aspirants Abdul Halim and Mozammel Haque clashed near Satkania Govt Primary School centre over taking control of the station around 11:00am, said Fariduddin Khan, officer-in-charge of Satkania Police Station.
At one stage, both factions exchanged fire, and Amin was hit by bullets. He was rushed to Satkania upazila health complex where he died from wounds, said the OC.
During the polling hours, more than a hundred people, including four cops, were injured in clashes between AL and BNP supporters in different municipalities of Barguna, Moulvibazar, Chittagong, Narayanganj, Noakhali and Chandpur.
In an incident of post-polls violence, unidentified criminals shot councillor-elect Rakib Uddin of Ward-9 in Daudkandi municipality of Comilla, leaving him seriously injured.
Rakib came under attack at Daudkandi High School playground around 9:00pm, said police.
He was whisked off to a local clinic from where he was brought to Dhaka Medical College Hospital around 11:30pm, said Sentu Das, a sub-inspector at the DMCH police camp.
Earlier, voting in the 234 municipalities began peacefully at 8:00am.
As the day progressed, allegations of vote rigging in different centres began surfacing.
In many municipalities, voters found that their ballots had already been cast. Some others complained that they were barred allegedly by ruling party men from entering polling centres.
AL men snatched ballot papers and stuffed ballot boxes in a number of municipalities. In some cases, election officials either helped them stuff ballot boxes or played the role of silent spectators, The Daily Star correspondents found.
Meanwhile, several AL activists were jailed for resorting to electoral irregularities during the polling.
A mobile court sentenced Mohammad Selim, 35, member of Matiranga municipality AL unit, to a year's imprisonment for trying to snatch ballots at Matiranga Pilot High School centre in Khagrachhari.
AL leader and councillor aspirant Mohammad Harun of Ward-6 in Rangunia municipality was jailed for two years for trying to take away ballot boxes from Majumder Khil High School centre in Chittagong.
In a number of municipalities, AL men drove BNP candidates' agents out of polling centres.
In Jamalpur Sadar municipality, AL men and supporters of the party's mayoral aspirant Mirza Shakhawatul Alam Moni ousted polling agents from all 42 polling centres within two hours of voting.
Agents of BNP candidates were not seen during polling hours in many centres of 15 municipalities in Barisal.
While carrying out electoral irregularities, workers and followers of AL candidates clashed with supporters of BNP contestants in many municipalities of Comilla, Chandpur, Laxmipur, Barisal, Barguna, Chittagong, Pirojpur and Munshiganj.
They even clashed with supporters of rebel candidates in some municipalities, including those in Habiganj and Barguna.
The BNP and its mayoral candidates complained of "widespread vote rigging" throughout the day.
But the ruling AL claimed that voting, by and large, was free and fair except for "a few irregularities".
"This municipality election was held in a freer, fairer and more festive manner than any other local government polls in the past," AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said at a press briefing at the party president's Dhanmondi office yesterday afternoon.