AL wins in 'peaceful' polls | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 25, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 25, 2010

AL wins in 'peaceful' polls

Polling in 9 centres postponed; BNP claims voters intimidated, polling agents driven away


While one polling centre in Bhola-3 constituency is brimming with voters during yesterday's by-election, the other is just waiting to see its first voter. Photo: Rashed Sumon

The ruling Awami League candidate won yesterday's Bhola-3 election by a big margin, inviting a renewed political threat by opposition BNP, which took no time to reject the poll results.
Nurrunnabi Chowdhury Shawon of the AL tallied 93,209 votes, overshadowing his only rival ex-minister Hafizuddin Ahmed, who received 41,489. The margin of difference was almost four times greater than the AL victory in the December 29, 2008 parliamentary elections.
Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda termed yesterday's vote "by and large free and fair".
While the EC declared the polls largely peaceful, it suspended voting at mid-afternoon in nine centres because of allegations that ballot boxes had been stuffed and other anomalies. All the suspended stations are in the Lalmohan upazila, hometown of both the AL and BNP candidates.
Re-polling at the suspended centres is not required as the margin of victory was greater than the 31,566 voters registered at those stations.
Polling was held in remaining 77 stations including those in the Tajumuddin upazila, another area in the constituency.
However, journalists covering the by-poll noted widespread reports that voters were intimidated and opposition polling agents were forced to remain out of the fray.
Voting started at 8:00am and remained peaceful in the morning, but by noon it turned out to be a "one-sided" show as BNP agents and supporters were driven out of the polling centres.
After voting started, activists and supporters of the ruling party candidate took position mainly in BNP-dominated areas and prevented voters from going to polling stations.
BNP supporters and voters were beaten up and attacked allegedly by AL men when they tried to reach polling centres at several places of Lalmohan and Tajumuddin upazilas.
"I could not cast my vote as Awami League men had threatened us last night [Friday] not to go to the poll centre," said Sirajul Islam of Kachukhali under Farashganj union of Lalmohan upazila.
Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said the commission would open inquiry into the alleged irregularities and take stern actions against those responsible for it.
In the December 29 parliamentary election, polling was not suspended at any of over 35,000 stations in 299 constituencies. Even during the incumbent government, the EC successfully held seven other by-elections without suspending voting at any centre.
The Bhola-3 by-poll drew huge attention and generated heat in the national politics, prompting the EC to take innovative measures to control irregularities. The measures included using "silent observers", video cameras, recruiting a number of election officers from outside the district, and deploying a huge security force.
The AL yesterday expressed satisfaction with the poll. But the BNP immediately rejected the result, demanding a fresh election and the resignation of incumbent EC members.
Top BNP leaders last night held a meeting with party chief Khaleda Zia to decide their strategy for waging an anti-government agitation.
"We do not have any other alternative but to take to the streets to protest holding of the farcical election," said Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a member of BNP national standing committee.
The margin of votes between the AL and BNP candidates also widened this time comparing to the December 29 parliamentary election. In that poll, AL candidate Major (retd) Jasim Uddin defeated BNP candidate Major (retd) Hafiz Uddin, who won 96,034 votes. Hafiz received 83,123.
The nine centres where voting was suspended are Lalmohan Public Library and its adjacent Mohila College, Doctor Azhar Uddin Registered Primary School, Veduria Shirajia Senior Madrasa, Satani Government Primary and Secondary School, Kishoreganj Government Primary School, Maheshkhali Ashrafia Government Primary School, Lord Hardinge Fazil Madrasa, Uttar Annoda Prasad Government Primary School, and Syedabad Forkania Madrasa.

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