AL wins big amid big irregularities
Awami League mayoral candidate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury has won by a landslide in the Chattogram City Corporation polls marked by violence, low voter turnout and the capture of scores of polling centres by ruling party men.
Rezaul bagged 369,248 votes while his nearest rival, BNP mayoral candidate Shahadat Hossain, got only 52,489 votes as per the results of 733 of the 735 polling centres.
Voting at two centres was suspended following clashes between supporters of AL-backed councillor contenders and those of AL rebel candidates yesterday morning.
Voter turnout was 22.52 percent.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shahadat alleged that police and those in the local administration "acted as AL activists".
"Police and the administration, not the AL candidate, were my rivals."
Alleging massive vote rigging and irregularities in yesterday's polls, local BNP leaders said Shahadat got only one vote each at several polling centres which is a clear example of a farcical election.
They said it is not believable that the BNP mayoral candidate would get one vote at any centre.
While announcing the results last night, Returning Officer Mohammad Hasanuzzaman said the polls were held in a peaceful manner.
Briefing journalists at the Election Bhaban in the capital, Md Alamgir Hossain, senior secretary at the Election Commission, said that apart from some stray incidents, the CCC election was held peacefully in a free and fair manner.
"Some unruly people who opposed voting through EVMs attacked two polling stations. Voting was suspended there. Except for these two, polling in all other centres was held in a fair manner," he said.
Earlier in the morning, one person was killed and more than a hundred were injured in sporadic clashes in at least eight wards during voting in the port city.
Supporters of an AL-backed councillor candidate clashed with followers of an AL rebel councillor candidate in the city's Ambagan area around 9:00am, leaving Md Alauddin, 28, dead.
Voting was postponed at two polling centres in Patharghata area following clashes, vandalising of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the capture of polling booths.
BNP-backed councillor candidate Mohammad Ismail was detained from the area over links to the clashes.
Meanwhile, a 28-year-old man was killed allegedly by his brother near a polling station. Locals said it was the outcome of rivalry between the siblings over the polls. But police said the killing had nothing to do with the election, rather it was a family feud.
The man, Nizam Uddin Munna, was murdered in the port city's Bara Quarter area around 8:15am, said police.
VISIT TO POLLING CENTRES
Eight reporters and photojournalists of The Daily Star visited 45 of the 735 polling centres and found a very low turnout of voters at those centres.
Two reporters stayed at two polling centres throughout the polling from 8:00am to 4:00pm and saw the same picture.
Prior to the polls, the Election Commission on several occasions said the entire city area had been covered in a security blanket to ensure that voters can cast ballots freely without any fear.
But violence and irregularities spoiled the election atmosphere. There were clashes between supporters of AL-backed councillor candidates and followers of AL rebel contenders.
In some areas, clashes broke out between activists of AL-backed councillor candidates and those of BNP-backed ones.
This discouraged voters, by and large, from going to the polling centres to cast ballots. Even in some areas, local AL leaders and their family members did not show up at the polling centres.
The polling agents of the BNP-nominated mayoral candidate were driven out of almost all the 45 polling centres visited by The Daily Star Correspondents.
Wearing badges of AL-nominated mayoral candidate and AL backed councillor candidates, several groups of people were seen in front of almost all those polling centres. They were enquiring about the identity of those whom they suspected as loyal to BNP candidates.
AL mayoral candidate Rezaul cast his vote at Ekhlasur Rahman Government Primary School in Bahaddarhat area around 8:45am.
Later, he told journalists that he was confident about his victory. He, however, said he would accept the outcome whatever it may be.
BNP mayoral candidate Shahadat cast his ballot at Teachers Training College, Chattogram around 10:00am.
Later, he alleged that all his polling agents were driven out of the polling centres.
Around 2:30pm, he went to the RO's office to make complaints of irregularities in the polls.
A number of BNP-backed councillor candidates alleged that members of police, Rab and BGB as well as executive magistrates were virtually inactive in keeping the election atmosphere free and fair.
CONTROL OF EVMS BY AL MEN
AL men had taken control of the EVMs at all the 45 polling centres visited by The Daily Star correspondents.
Many voters at those centres alleged that they could not cast ballots as the ruling party men drove them out of the polling booths after getting their fingerprints on EVMs.
One of the correspondents stayed at Shahid Nagar City Corporation Girls' High School for eight hours and saw AL men wearing party badges take control of the EVMs there.
Around 9:00am, a young woman was seen shouting outside a booth at the centre, alleging that despite being a voter, she was not allowed to enter the booth to cast ballots.
Asked, Bashir Ahmed, presiding officer at the centre, said he did not get any complaint from anyone.
A section of polling officials were seen cooperating with the AL men, allowing the ruling party loyalists to take control of the EVMs at the centre.
At the Teachers Training College, Jasim Uddin, an AL activist, complained to several local AL leaders that he could not cast ballot despite giving fingerprint on EVM.
He alleged that BCL activists pushed the button on the EVM before he could enter the enclosed space inside the booth to cast vote.
Around 11:00am at the same centre, one of the voters, Fahima Sultana, alleged that her vote was cast by another woman inside the polling booth after she put her fingerprint on EVM.
She shouted at the AL men while leaving the polling centre.
NO AGENT OF BNP CANDIDATES
The Daily Star correspondents found no polling agents of BNP candidates at 44 polling centres. Only one agent of the BNP mayoral candidate was at the CDA Public School and College in Chandgaon area.
The agent, Saidul Haque Shikder, claimed that when he along with 17 polling agents of the BNP candidate arrived at the centre around 7:30am, AL men swooped on them. He managed to enter the centre while the other agents were chased off.
"I took shelter at the room of the presiding officer. He then took me to a booth adjacent to his room," he told The Daily Star.
Contacted, Presiding Officer Morshed Alam said he was unaware of what happened outside the polling centre.
"Only one agent of the BNP mayoral candidate came to me and I took him to a booth."
Talking to this newspaper, Nazma Begum, an agent of the BNP mayoral candidate at Teachers Training College, claimed that she along with another polling agent of the BNP candidate went to the centre in the morning but ruling party men drove them away from the gate, hitting them with sticks in front of law enforcers.