IVY wins again
Selina Hayat Ivy won a straight third term as the Narayanganj mayor as she defeated her rival by a big margin in yesterday's city corporation polls, which was largely festive and peaceful.
The Awami League candidate bagged 1,59,097 votes while independent contender Taimur Alam Khandakar got 92,166 votes, according to the unofficial results announced by Returning Officer Mahfuza Akhter.
Ivy became the first mayor to hold office for three consecutive terms.
In recent years, almost all the local government polls were tainted by violence and allegations of ballot stuffing, use of muscle power and other forms of election anomalies. Scores of people were killed in violence even during the ongoing union parishad polls.
But the NCC polls yesterday came as a welcome exception for the nation.
There were no reports of irregularities or violence anywhere in Narayanganj city. Voters turned up in good numbers amid a festive atmosphere.
The turnout was 56.25 percent, the RO said while announcing the results at her office last night.
But a section of the constituents, especially elderly people and female voters, had issues with fingerprints while using the EVMs, which were used in all voting centres for the first time in any election in the country.
"I want to work tirelessly for the people of Narayanganj for the next five years."
Glitches and people's inexperience with the electronic voting machines slowed down the polling at many centres, causing voters' lines outside the booths to grow longer.
However, most people were able to cast votes.
This was found by four correspondents and three photographers of The Daily Star who visited 45 out the 192 polling centres during the voting hours between 8:00am and 4:00pm.
They saw Ivy's polling agents and supporters in most centres. Taimur's agents and followers were absent in a few.
Although traffic restrictions were imposed, voters were allowed to go to the centres by rickshaws and auto-rickshaws.
Violation of the health safety rules was rampant, raising a risk of rise in Covid infection.
After the unofficial results were announced, Ivy thanked all voters for trusting her again.
"I want to work tirelessly for the people of Narayanganj for the next five years. I want to dedicate even the last day of my life for the people, overcoming all odds," she told reporters.
"I did not lose the election … it is a defeat for the government."
In his reaction, Taimur, a former top BNP leader, said he lost the polls "because of rigging by the administration and EVM manipulation".
"I did not lose the election … it's a defeat for the government. We have won people's love … we are grateful to them as well as the media," he said at a post-election press conference.
"You [journalists] have seen the election. I gave you every update. Our Siddhirganj election coordinator was arrested. Following his arrest, many of my other workers started getting arrested as well."
Braving the morning chills, people started to line up at the polling centres even before the voting opened at 8:00am. As the day wore on, the queues grew longer.
Female voters made up a significant portion of the crowd.
"Although it was difficult for me to go to the second floor, I was able to cast my vote. I am happy that I've voted," Chandraban Begum, a woman with physical disabilities, told The Daily Star at a centre in Morgan Girls High School and College in the city.
Dipali Rani Sarkar, a voter who went to the Narayanganj Government Girls' College centre, had a different experience.
"I was not familiar with the EVM. I made a mistake while casting my vote for the mayor post," said the woman in her late 40s.
After visiting several polling centres, RO Mahfuza Akhter said, "We saw a good number of ballots being cast in the first four hours. The turnout is also very good."
She, however, said there were glitches in EVMs in some centres which slowed down the voting. Those were fixed quickly by technical teams from the Election Commission, she said.
"The election atmosphere is festive and peaceful," said the RO.
The NCC polls have been at the heart of discussion in the country's political area. The voting was watched closely as it was a test for the current EC, which expires its tenure next month.
Election experts said the EC, widely criticised for its failure to hold fair polls in the past, has something to cheer because of the peaceful election yesterday.
Visiting polling centres yesterday afternoon, Election Commission Mahbub Talukdar said, "Of all the elections held in the last five years during our tenure, Narayanganj City Corporation has been one of the best."
After the voting ended, EC Secretary Humayun Kabir Khandkar last night said, "The election was free, fair and peaceful."
Earlier in the day, Ivy cast her vote at the Shishubagh School centre in Pashchim Deobhag around 11:00am. Later, she expressed her optimism about winning.
The BNP boycotted the polls, but Taimur joined it anyway. For violating party discipline, he, however, was removed from the post of its chairperson's adviser. He cast his vote at Narayanganj Islamia Kamil Madrasa Centre in Masdair around 8:30am.
"If a free and fair election is held, I am hopeful of winning the polls by a margin of one lakh votes," he said while speaking to reporters there.
Ruling AL lawmaker Shamim Osman, who has a longstanding rivalry with Ivy, voted at Adarsha School centre around 3:35pm.
Terming the election "peaceful", he said, "I have campaigned for 'boat' [electoral symbol of AL]. My heart bled, but I am a soldier of Sheikh Hasina. 'Boat' will win by a big margin."
Upgraded from the municipality to a city corporation, NCC went to the polls for the first time in 2011. Ivy clinched the mayor post by beating the then ruling AL-backed candidate Shamim by more than one lakh votes.
In the next election in 2016, she defeated BNP-backed aspirant Shakhawat Hossain and became the mayor for the second consecutive time.
[Wasim Bin Habib and Mohammad Al-Masum Molla contributed to this report]