Chattogram city polls 2021: Complaints pile up, EC sees little merit | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 26, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:42 AM, January 26, 2021

Chattogram city polls 2021: Complaints pile up, EC sees little merit

Polls tomorrow yet half the complaints left unaddressed; Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder worried over clashes in the run-up

Almost half the complaints filed by mayor and councillor candidates in the Chattogram City Corporation elections, to be held tomorrow, are yet to be addressed.

Besides, police personnel engaged by the Election Commission did not find proof of any wrongdoing over most of the complaints already been dealt with.

The candidates have been lodging complaints against each other with the EC over the last two weeks in the run-up to the CCC polls.

Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder in a statement yesterday expressed concerns over clashes centring the elections.

He then told The Daily Star that the EC could not avoid responsibility in case the election atmosphere deteriorated.

As of yesterday morning, the commission received as many as 60 complaints, said sources at the returning officer's office.

BNP-backed candidates alleged that the EC, in most cases, was oblivious to investigating and taking actions.

EC officials said in all cases it informs, requests or orders officers-in-charge of respective police stations to take action, or sometimes requests respective candidates or persons against whom the complaints are filed to abide by the electoral rules.

According to the EC, 31 complaints out of a total of 60 have so far been disposed of as it received reports from police in regards to those complaints.

Of the 31 disposed complaints, police in their reports said they did not find proof of any wrongdoing over 20 complaints.

Among the remaining 11, cases and general diaries were filed in connection with five complaints, the accused in three complaints apologised, a councillor candidate's posters that violated rules were removed, and in case of two complaints police failed to investigate as the EC had engaged the wrong police stations.

Most complaints were lodged with regard to obstruction of electoral campaigns, according to EC documents.

The other complaints were over intimidation, death threats, assault, vandalising vehicles used for electoral campaigns, tearing down electoral posters, banners and leaflets and arrest and harassment by police, EC officials said.

For complaints about police harassment and arrests, the EC informed the Chattogram Metropolitan Police commissioner about the matters.

Of the complaints, 13 were lodged on behalf of BNP-backed mayoral candidate Shahadat Hossain and only four were disposed of by the EC.

EC found no evidence in three of these four complaints of Shahadat while a case was filed in connection with the other complaint.

Four complaints were lodged on behalf of AL-backed mayoral aspirant Rezaul Karim Chowdhury. One of them was disposed of by the EC.

The remaining 43 complaints were lodged by the councillor candidates for general and reserved seats.

Returning Officer Mohammad Hasanuzzaman said the EC was looking into the complaints with all seriousness and remained alert to avert any untoward incidents centring the polls.

Police said they have beefed up vigilance so that law and order does not deteriorate during the polls.

BNP mayoral candidate Dr Shahadat Hossain said the EC should dispose of the complaints lodged by the candidates for the sake of ensuring a free, fair and participatory election. But, he said the EC was not paying any heed to their complaints.

Advocate Akhter Kabir Chowdhury, president of Chattogram city unit of Sachetan Nagorik Committee (SANAK) and Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said the EC was failing to play its required neutral role and achieve confidence from all the parties.

He, however, said the EC alone could not be robust if there is a general lack of good governance in society, but it should continue its effort to be more effective.

MAHBUB'S STATEMENT

In a statement issued yesterday the election commissioner said there was enough reason for concern about clashes during the CCC election, which is a very crucial one.

Contacted, he told The Daily Star that two persons had already been killed centring the election and that there was some chaos.

"So, there is concern. Life is more valuable than any election," he said.

Talukder stated that holding of a free, fair, legal and acceptable election was not possible if the environment was not made fair. In that case, the concept of a level playing field, the prerequisite of an election, becomes absurd.

Mentioning that it is a big challenge for the EC to create balance between the two parties in the CCC election, the commissioner in his statement said it is a must to keep this election under the control of the EC. Otherwise, the election would be a failed one.

Holding fair elections is the acid test for everyone irrespective of party and opinion, stated the election commissioner.

"We will have to ensure that true public representatives are elected through ballots."

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