Sakku sinks AL favourite Afzal | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 06, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 06, 2012

Comilla City's Maiden Polls

Sakku sinks AL favourite Afzal

Monirul Haque Sakku

The Nagorik Committee-backed candidate Monirul Haque Sakku triumphed at yesterday's maiden mayoral polls to Comilla City Corporation, defeating the ruling Awami League-backed contender Afzal Khan by around 30 thousand votes.
Sakku, who had earlier resigned as joint secretary general of Comilla district (south) BNP to contest the election boycotted by his party, polled 65,577 votes while his rival Afzal, joint convener of Comilla district AL, got 36,471.
It was the first time that electronic voting machines (EVM) were used at all polling centres in an election. Also for the first time was the application of webcam surveillance at all centres.
Save for a few untoward incidents, polling was peaceful throughout the city.
Of a total of 1,69,273 voters, 1,27,072 (75%) cast their ballots, Returning Officer Abdul Baten said as he announced the unofficial results at around 9:15pm, some five hours after voting closed.
As soon as the results were declared at the city's Town Hall auditorium, thousands of Sakku's supporters roared in joy and chanted slogans.
“Comilla city dwellers have witnessed a free, fair and peaceful election. The use of EVM has been successful,” Abdul Baten told The Daily Star.
Afzal Khan has conceded defeat and congratulated Sakku on his victory. "I don't have any complaints about the polls," he told reporters.
Sakku, who was mayor of Comilla municipality before it was upgraded to a city corporation, said, “This is a victory of the people. I will work for the welfare of the people who have put so much trust in me.”
He added, "I was in fear about the use of EVM. But people have elected me, brushing aside all my apprehensions."
Asked if he would rejoin the BNP, he said, “I was involved in BNP politics for over 30 years. I will meet my chairperson and explain the reasons why I contested the polls.”
The BNP did not openly back Sakku as it opted to boycott the polls, protesting the use of EVMs and non-deployment of the army. It had said free and fair polls were not possible with EVMs and without army deployment.
The opposition's fears, however, proved misplaced as voting in all 65 centres was peaceful and voters cast their ballots through the machines mostly with ease.
Voting began at 8:00am and ended at 4:00pm without any break.
A total of 1, 69,273 people, including 86,074 females, were on the voter list to elect their first city mayor from among nine candidates and 36 ward councillors, including nine in reserved seats for women, from among 287 contestants.
Of the other mayoral candidates, Nur-ur Rahman Mahmud got 8,514 votes, Anisur Rahman 3,994, Jatiya Party-backed Air Ahmed Selim 7,961, Shirin Akhter 1,103, Salman Saeed 427 and Chanchal Kumar Ghosh 890.
Meanwhile, Afzal's brother Amanullah Khan, who ran for ward councillor, also lost. His daughter Anjum Sultana, however, came out victorious as a reserved seat councillor.
Political observers say though the BNP did not lend its formal backing to Sakku, the election results will boost the morale of its leaders and workers. The opposition may as well argue that the ruling party's popularity is on the wane.
The government, on the other side, may claim credit for allowing the election to be held in a free and fair manner.
The outcome of the Comilla polls, which coincide with the third anniversary of the AL-led government, is quite embarrassing for the ruling alliance.
It is the second defeat of a ruling party-backed candidate in a little over two months. In last year's October 30 Narayanganj City Corporation polls, AL-backed mayoral hopeful Shamim Osman suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Selina Hayat Ivy. Ivy, herself an AL leader, had sought her party's support in vain.
People came out in their droves to cast ballots, creating a festive mood throughout the city. The turnout of female voters, in particular, was remarkable.
Supporters of some candidates were seen helping voters by giving them their serial numbers on the voters' roll.
Tight security measures were in place at the poll centres and adjacent areas. All the leading mayoral aspirants expressed satisfaction over the environment.
A number of polling officials and agents of some candidates, however, said many illiterate voters, including elderly women, had difficulty casting votes through EVMs. They later cast ballots with the help of election officials.
Police said they had arrested three people, including an agent of a councillor candidate, for trying to cast fake votes and create problems at the centre.
Al Amin, one of the arrestees, was sentenced by a mobile court to six months in jail for trying to cast fake votes.

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