A little over a year after the parliamentary election, the two arch-rival political parties once again lock horns in the much-anticipated Dhaka city polls today amid widespread fears of violence and concerns over the use of EVMs.
Many residents expressed fears that there will be violence on the polling day because clashes between the AL and BNP men took place during the campaign.
On January 21, BNP’s DNCC mayoral nominee Tabith Awal was attacked by supporters of an AL-backed councillor candidate in Mirpur.
According to the returning officers for the DNCC and DSCC, Abul Kashem and Abdul Baten, 66 percent of the 1,318 poling centres in DSCC and 63 percent of the 1,150 centres in DNCC are important. Other Election Commission officials said “important” was a euphemism for the presence of risks of violence.
The EC has engaged some 49,000 law enforcers. Besides, 172 executive magistrates and 64 judicial magistrates will be deployed to punish violence and code of conduct breaches.
EC sources said 65 platoons of BGB will be deployed and an additional 10 platoons of BGB will be kept as backup.
Additional law enforcers will be present at the “important” centres. A 16-member team of law enforcers will be deployed at each polling centre. In “important” ones, there will be 18.
During the three-week campaign, the two returning officers received a total of 133 complaints.
Most of the complaints were filed by the BNP mayor runners and councillor contenders, officials said, adding that the BNP men accused their AL counterparts of breaching the code of conduct.
The returning officers claimed almost all the complaints had been settled.
The general public, election observers and the international community will watch the five-member EC hold the first major polls using the electronic voting machines (EVMs) exclusively.
The EVMs will be used at the 2,468 polling centres despite concerns expressed by opposition parties of vote rigging. Besides, many voters say they don’t know how to use the machines.
The BNP and Communist Party of Bangladesh said that the EVMs were susceptible to manipulation and that elections could be rigged by manipulating them.
Several BNP leaders termed the EVMs “the tool to rob the vote”.
Many experts also said they were concerned over the room for irregularities created by the use of EVMs.
Two mayors, 127 ward councillors, and 41 quota-allocated women councillors will be elected in Dhaka north and south city corporations. Four AL-backed councillors -- two general ward councillors and two quota-allocated women councillors -- were elected unopposed in DSCC.
People will cast their vote from 8:00am-4:00pm. There are 54.64 lakh voters.
However, the city corporations formed after the polls will not be able to solve many of the age-old problems plaguing the residents because many other institutions are also responsible for addressing the issues.
The ruling AL wants to prove its popularity in the polls, especially since it came to power through an election preceded by an almost one-sided campaign.
Victory for the BNP, on the other hand, means that the party would be energised after being cornered since the defeat in the general election.
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday told reporters: “Elections will be free and fair. We need cooperation from all.”
The first election of the undivided Dhaka City Corporation was held in 1994 and the second one in 2002. The government in 2011 split the DCC into two but there was no election.
The last city elections were held in 2015 in which the AL-backed candidates won and the BNP-backed ones boycotted the polls, making allegations of irregularities.
But this time, the BNP nominees said they would not leave the field until the votes were counted.