Free, fair, quiet | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 31, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 31, 2011

Free, fair, quiet

Agree political parties

A woman goes through the procedures before casting her vote using an electronic voting machine at Morgan Girls' High School polling centre yesterday during the Narayanganj City Corporation elections. Nine out of the 27 wards in Narayanganj city were using the machines. Photo: Shawkat Jamil

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Leaders of political parties yesterday said the maiden election to Narayanganj City Corporation was largely peaceful, fair and free.
However, their opinions go different ways from there on with ruling alliance leaders praising the voters for exercising their franchise and opposition leaders bashing the government for “compelling” them to pull out of the race.
Parties of the ruling alliance claimed that the election has once again proved that a free, fair and peaceful election can be held when an elected government is in power, if all necessary arrangements are ensured and voters are enthusiastic.
Opposition BNP leaders, however, claim that the government made it impossible for them to stay in the race and they have rejected the election.
Their ally Jamaat-e-Islami refused to even make any comment. Jamaat Assistant Publication Secretary Matiur Rahman Akand only said that they have nothing to say since the opposition alliance has pulled out its mayoral candidate.
Even before the results of all polling centres were out, BNP Vice-Chairman Abdullah Al Noman yesterday evening said people of Narayanganj have rejected the candidate chosen by the prime minister as well as the government. Moreover, the Election Commission has failed to obtain the opposition's faith.
BNP standing committee member MK Anwar said the party had no option but to ask the candidate of its choice to pull out. "Whoever wins the polls--be it Ivy or Osman--makes no difference for us. By disobliging the Election Commission in deploying the army, the government did a disservice to the future of democracy in Bangladesh," he told The Daily Star last night.
He said the Awami League-led government has been saying that they want a stronger Election Commission. "But by not obliging to the Election Commission's requirement of army deployment in the Narayanganj polls, the government further eroded public confidence on the Election Commission in holding fair polls in the future."
He, however, said the BNP left the decision to boycott the polls for way too late but the Election Commission can be blamed for that as well; it was slow in responding to the government's indifference to deploy the army.
The BNP leader said, "Once we learnt that the government declined to deploy the army for maintaining peace during the polls, it became a security concern for our leaders and workers in Narayanganj."
BNP standing committee member Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said without the participation of the opposition party, the election was held peacefully and a comparatively good candidate of the ruling party was going to win.
He alleged that the government and Election Commission forced the opposition to pull out its candidate so that one of the two Awami Leaguers in the non-partisan election could win.
BNP standing committee member Brig Gen (retd) Hannan Shah claimed that the Election Commission worked in favour of the government-backed candidate and by doing so it has exposed its weakness.
BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the party has no comments about the election. “We have already rejected the election, thus we have no reaction over the result,” he said.
Most of the opposition leaders The Daily Star talked to yesterday refused to make any comment about the election.
Leaders of the Awami League-led alliance said the desires of the people have been reflected in the election and it would not have been possible had not the Election Commission played its due role.
Awami League presidium member Obaidul Quader said, “It has been proved that a free, fair and neutral election can be held without the deployment of the army.”
“There is a belief in Bangladesh that a peaceful election cannot be held without the deployment of the army. But an example has been set that a fair election is possible under a strong Election Commission with support from the government,” Quader said.
He came down heavily on the BNP high command for “forcing” its affiliated mayoral candidate Taimur Alam Khandaker to quit the race in a “midnight drama”.
“The BNP candidate was weeping like a child. He [Taimur] has been forced to quit the race,” Quader said terming the main opposition's last-minute act planned, unfortunate, and irresponsible.
“Our challenge was holding the polls in a free, fair and neutral manner and it has been done successfully. People have given their verdict in a peaceful environment,” he observed.
Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad said people never give the wrong verdict and the election proved that a free and fair election can be held under an elected government.
“People are the main factor here. They cast their votes freely and fairly and that's why the election was held peacefully. There was no rigging,” he said.
He praised the government for ensuring an environment in which the voters felt comfortable to cast their votes.
General Secretary of Communist Party of Bangladesh Mujahidul Islam Selim said despite many obstacles, the election was held peacefully and the main credit goes to the voters who voted honestly and courageously.
“It has all been possible because of the voters' courage and their firm stance,” he said, adding, “I would say it is a silent revolution.”
He hailed the role of the law enforcement agencies, the administration and the Election Commission. “Yet, these institutions could not have done anything if the people had not thronged the polling centres consciously and peacefully.”
He said it has been proved that if there is a good alternative before the people, they do not choose the lesser evil.
Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal General Secretary Dilip Barua said the people expected a free and fair election would be held and that has been proved through their peaceful voting. He said it has been proved that the government can hold free and fair elections.
Workers' Party of Bangladesh chief Rashed Khan Menon is satisfied with the peaceful holding of the polls. “The people of Narayanganj wanted a peaceful election to give their verdict and they got it.
“It proved once again that no obstruction is effective before people's wish,” said lawmaker Menon.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haque Inu said peaceful holding of polls has proved that the government did not interfere to help the government-backed candidate.
It is also established that the Election Commission has done its responsibility with efficiency, Inu said, adding that casting of votes by a good number of voters has also proved BNP's apprehension of low voter turnout wrong.

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