In the first phase of upazila election, 78 of the local government bodies go to the polls today amid a lack of enthusiasm and festivity.
The series of battle of ballots -- boycotted by the BNP and several other parties -- kicks off only over two months after the December 30 parliamentary polls.
This year, election to 480 upazilas will take place in five phases. Over 1.42 crore people are expected to cast their votes at 5,847 centres in the first phase today.
Polls to 125 upazilas will be held in the second phase on March 18, while the third phase will be held on March 22 in 127 upazilas and fourth in 122 upazilas on March 31.
The Election Commission has yet to announce the schedule for the fifth-phase polls.
In 2014, 487 upazilas went to polls in six phases between February and May.
For the first time in Bangladesh's history, political parties are nominating aspirants for upazila council, which includes a chairman, a vice chairman and a female vice chairman.
Opposition BNP; Left Democratic Alliance, a combine of eight left-leaning parties; Islami Andolan Bangladesh; Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan and Bangladesh Muslim League have boycotted the election.
They said they boycotted the polls as they did not see any prospect of a free and fair election.
The BNP alleged that the EC was controlled by the government and that's why it might stage “another farce” over the polls like it did with the national election won by the ruling Awami League.
Their boycott has made the election one-sided, ensuring AL dominance in the local government body elections.
At a press briefing at the Nirbachon Bhaban yesterday, Election Commission Additional Secretary Moklesur Rahman said all preparations were over for holding the election in a free and fair manner.
He called upon all voters to cast their ballots for the candidates of their choice without any fear. He also asked the candidates to follow the electoral code of conduct.
He warned of actions against any kind of negligence of duty by the law enforcers and election officials.
The EC primarily decided to hold election in 87 upazilas but on Friday night withheld elections to three upazilas -- Aditmari of Lalmonirhat, Purbadhala of Netrokona and Jamalganj of Sunamganj -- saying holding of impartial election was not possible.
The commission has also withheld election to three other upazilas --Ullapara of Sirajganj, Paba of Rajshahi and Phulabari of Dinajpur -- due to stay order on polls there, said officials.
Besides, there will be no elections to another three upazilas --Melandah and Madarganj of Jamalpur and Natore Sadar. All candidates of the upazilas are set to be elected unopposed.
A total of 28 candidates for chairman posts, vice-chairman and vice-chairman posts reserved for women have been elected uncontested in the phase. Of them, 15 are candidates for the chairman posts, six for vice-chairman and seven for reserved women vice-chairman posts.
EC sources said a total of 207 candidates were vying for chairman posts, 386 candidates for vice-chairman and 249 candidates for reserved women vice-chairman posts.
EC sources said 14 law enforcers would be deployed at each polling station. Besides, one executive magistrate will work in each upazilas for today's election.
EC Additional Secretary Moklesur said BGB and Rab personnel would be deployed in the election areas.
According to the Upazila Parishad Act 2009, elections will be held for three posts -- chairman, vice chairman and vice chairperson.
As per the act, the mayors of municipalities, chairmen of Union Parishads and members in seats reserved for women in both municipalities and Union Parishads automatically become members of an upazila parishad.
As per Article 59 of the Constitution, the Upazila Parishads are designated to perform significant functions relating to administration and the work of public officers, maintenance of public order, the preparation and implementation of plans relating to public services and economic development.
11 AL MEN JAILED
Meanwhile, a mobile court in Rajshahi yesterday sentenced 11 Awami League men, including a municipality mayor, to five-day imprisonment each for violating the electoral code of conduct in Durgapur upazila.
The mobile court headed by executive magistrate Mohammad Kawsar Hamid handed down the verdict.
The convicts include Durgapur Municipality Mayor Tofazzol Hossain and Jhaluka Union Parishad chairman Mojahar Ali. All of them are leaders and activists of different units of local Awami League.
Officer-in-charge of Durgapur Police Station Abdul Motaleb said police arrested them while they were holding a “secret meeting” to carry out subversion activities in the municipality area ahead of today's polls.