The city corporation polls held in Dhaka and Chittagong on Tuesday are not credible by any standard, says Election Working Group (EWG), a platform of 28 non-partisan civil society organisations.
The EWG at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday presented their preliminary observations of 619 out of 2,701 poll centres in Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong city corporations.
"Numerous incidents of ballot stuffing, intimidation, booth capture and violence were reported," said Md Abdul Alim, director of EWG Secretariat. "Based on the extent of malpractice and irregularities observed, EWG evaluates these elections to be not credible," he added.
The summary of their findings shows that ballot stuffing took place at 55 centres in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), 46 in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and 37 in Chittagong City Corporation (CCC). Similarly, violent incidents were observed at 66, 26 and 72 centres in DSCC, DNCC and CCC respectively.
Protests or objection by polling agents was filed during counting votes at 12 percent of the observed stations in DSCC, 5 percent in DNCC and 21 percent in CCC, while poll results were not displayed as per law at 14 percent stations, said the polls monitoring network.
The group alleges that 26 of its observers were not allowed to enter polling stations, 37 were ousted from vote centres, 138 were not allowed to observe counting and two were beaten up in DSCC.
The group further alleges that it applied to the Election Commission (EC) for allowing 1,700 observers, but the commission approved 1,414 and issued cards to only 828 without giving any explanation.
Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, steering committee member and founder of Election Observation Council, said law enforcers were vigilant on the roads but were not equally active on the premises or inside the poll centres.
In reply to questions from journalists about EC's role, he said, "We cannot comment on it without observing what steps they take regarding re-election after investigating the allegations that have surfaced so far."
However, Sharmin Murshid, chief executive officer of Brotee, a civil society organisation, expressed disappointment at EC's role.
"The EC did a poor job of keeping sanctity of the electoral environment. I did not get the feeling that they were keeping vigil," she observed.
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has also criticised the role of EC and law enforcers and boycotting of the polls. It also condemned widespread rigging, violence and creating obstruction for voters, observers and journalists as allegedly happened in a number of centres.
In a press statement, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said, "Acceptability of the three city corporation elections is in question because of irregularities that took place under political shelter and muscle power.
"The EC not only failed to carry out its duty but also ruined the image and public trust of this constitutional institution because of its politically biased attitude," he observed.
Mayoral candidate Zonayed Saki has meanwhile termed the election a farce staged in connivance with the EC, ruling party goons and police.
He alleged polling stations had turned entertainment centre for ruling party's supporters after 10:00am.
"By afternoon they [ruling party supporters] ousted 600 of our polling agents. They also pretended to be agents of other parties' candidates," he alleged.
Saki also alleged that the EC had cooked up the voting results as per the government's order.