Over 700 unions will go to polls today against the backdrop of the deadly violence during electioneering in the last couple of weeks.
In the first phase, elections will be held in 11 more unions on Wednesday and in two on Sunday. The polls will be held on partisan lines for the first time.
The chief election commissioner yesterday blamed government officials for not cooperating with the EC in holding the elections in a fair and peaceful manner.
“We depend on the officials of other departments.
We train them for a short period. We don't have much control over them. So we don't get cooperation from them as per our expectations. That's why these incidents [violence and irregularities] have been happening,” CEC Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad told a press conference at the commission's media centre.
The police will be held responsible if any irregularities occur in the polling stations, he noted.
“Incidents of electoral violence are higher in our country and neighboring nations than in the developed ones. We can't minimise it,” said the CEC adding that polls violence has been going on in Bangladesh for long and it would take time to change the situation.
“Elections have now become money-centric. That's why the person who has muscle power thinks himself to be the most eligible candidate,” said Rakibuddin.
At least eight people were killed and around 500 injured in clashes between supporters of different UP chairman and councillor hopefuls since the announcement of the polls schedule on February 11.
Meanwhile, paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh has been deployed in most of the electoral areas to maintain law and order, said BGB sources.
In most of the incidents of violence, the BNP-nominees, AL rebels and their supporters came under attack allegedly by supporters of AL candidates during electioneering.
The EC on several occasions warned of taking tough action against any violence and irregularities, but it has taken only a few significant actions so far.
Experts blamed lax enforcement of law against perpetrators for rising incidents of violence ahead of the polls.
“The Election Commission, the police administration and political parties are equally responsible for any violence and irregularities,” eminent local government expert Tofail Ahmed told The Daily Star.
Seeking anonymity, an election commissioner said as committing violence is a criminal offence, police are mainly responsible for checking it.
CHAIRMAN HOPEFUL KILLED
Independent UP chairman aspirant Santi Priyo Tripura, 40, was killed in Bandarban yesterday, raising the death toll in polls-related violence to eight.
The killing came a day after Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque warned that action would be taken against anyone if found involved in violence.
Elections to around 643 unions will be held on March 31 in the second phase, around 681 unions on April 23 in the third phase while around 2,200 more unions will go to polls in three other phases till mid-June.
Chairman aspirants are contesting the elections with party symbol, while councillor hopefuls are taking part in the polls independently.
The ruling AL and its archrival BNP have picked grassroots leaders for chairman posts. They will fight the battle of ballots with the AL's electoral symbol 'boat' and the BNP's 'sheaf of paddy'.
54 ELECTED UNCONTESTED
At least 54 AL candidates have already been elected chairman uncontested in the first phase. The BNP, however, could not field candidates in over 110 unions.
The EC did not find anything wrong with so many AL aspirants being elected unopposed as it claimed that the commission has nothing to do with it if anyone did not want to contest the polls.
Talking to The Daily Star, former election commissioner Shakhawat Hussain said the EC should have investigated the reasons why such a huge number of chairmen were elected uncontested as the UP polls are considered to be the most competitive elections at the grassroots.
The EC on March 9 issued a show cause notice to AL lawmaker Azizul Huq Arzu (Pabna-2) for violating the electoral code of conduct.
On March 16, police as per directives from the EC filed a case against AL MP Shawkat Hasanur Rahman Rimon (Barguna-2) for flouting the electoral law.
Besides, the EC on March 2 asked the LGRD ministry to suspend Abdul Alim, chairman of Phulgazi upazila in Feni, for influencing the polls there. The ministry suspended the chairman on March 6.
Leaders of Workers Party of Bangladesh and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, components of AL-led 14-party alliance, expressed concerned whether the UP elections would be held in a fair manner, according to newspaper.