Municipality Polls: Irregularities rule the day
Municipal polls in many places were marked by widespread allegations of voter fraud, ballot-box stuffing, flouting of laws and violence that left one man dead and at least 26 injured.
Several BNP-nominees and independents running for mayor boycotted the polls blaming blatant violation of rules by the ruling party activists.
Journalists covering the polls were assaulted in two places and police arrested at least three men on charges of voter fraud and battery.
Polls were held in 55 municipalities in 34 districts.
In Chattogram, Abdul Mabud, 45, brother of councillor candidate Abdul Mannan of ward-8, was killed and at least eight others were injured in a clash in Patiya Municipality polls.
Locals and police said Mannan's supporters made allegations of ballot-box stuffing at South Govinderkhhil Government Primary School around noon and eventually engaged in a clash with people supporting their opponents. Mabud was fatally stabbed around 1:00pm, said Rezaul Karim, officer-in-charge of Patiya Police Station.
Mobs set fire to a shop beside the polling centre during the clash, the OC added.
In the same municipality, family members of councillor candidate Abdul Khaleque in ward-1 filed a complaint with police claiming that Khaleque had gone missing early yesterday.
In Tangail's Kalihati municipality, at least five people were injured in a clash between supporters of Awami League and BNP mayor nominees.
The clash happened near Haripur Government Primary School around 12:30pm when AL men tried to drive away BNP supporters from the area, locals told reporters.
In Narsingdi municipality, a councillor candidate was injured in a fight with supporters of an opponent on UMC Adarsha High School premises.
Presiding Officer Abdul Hannan said a group of rowdy men forcibly entered the polling centre at the school around 11:00am and snatched away the ballot papers, causing chaotic scuffles among supporters.
Police arrested a man at the scene, but polling was suspended there.
In Rajshahi's Nawhata municipality, at least three people, including a journalist, were injured in a clash at Bagdhani Government Primary School where supporters of an AL mayor nominee tried to forcibly enter the polling station and were resisted by people from the camps of an AL rebel and a BNP-nominee, said witnesses and police.
While votes were being counted at Teghor Dakhil Madrasa of the municipality, a vehicle was torched and polling officials were kept confined as AL and BNP men clashed outside.
In Lalmonirhat municipality, at least six people were injured in clashes among multiple groups at different polling stations.
Besides, AL men assaulted a journalist at Saptana Government Primary School after they caught him filming voter fraud at the centre. The AL men also forced him to delete the clip, alleged the victim.
In Munshiganj's Mirkadim municipality, BNP mayor nominee Mizanur Rahman boycotted the election alleging various electoral fraud.
He alleged that even his wife and daughter-in-law were forced to vote for an AL nominee.
In the same municipality, a reporter alleged that supporters of a councillor candidate assaulted him after they caught him filming voting irregularities.
In Noakhali, at least five people were injured in clashes in Sonaimuri municipality between the supporters of the AL-nominee and the AL's rebel candidate near Batara Government Primary School.
One of the injured got shot. Besides, police arrested two polling agents of a councillor candidate on charges of forcing voters to cast a vote for the councillor runner.
In Brahmanbaria, The Daily Star correspondent saw some AL men stuffing ballot boxes around 2:10pm in Debagram Pilot Government High School of Akhaura municipality. Similar incidents were witnessed in some other polling stations.
An independent candidate boycotted the election citing voting irregularities committed by AL men.
In Thakurgaon municipality, The Daily Star correspondent visited at least five polling stations and found no polling agent of BNP.
Groups of AL men were seen inside polling booths of Jagoroni Government Primary School centre around 10:30am.
ELECTION COMMISSION'S REACTION
Election Commission Secretary Humayun Kabir Khandaker last evening said, "The election was held peacefully across the country."
He told reporters at the EC Secretariat in the capital's Agargaon that polling was suspended in four polling stations in Narsingdi, one in Noakhali's Sonaimuri, and two in Shariatpur's Damudda. Apart from these, voting across the country was peaceful.
About the man's death in Chattogram, he said, "It was an isolated incident."
He added that the supporters of the candidates who clashed should take the blame.
[Our correspondents from the districts contributed to the report]