Shifting its position again, the Awami League has decided not to nominate any candidate for the two posts of vice-chairman in the upazila parishad elections apparently to make the polls “competitive” amid boycotts by opposition parties including BNP.
Insiders say the two posts will “remain open”, which means any AL activist can run for vice-chairman as an independent candidate but will not get the party's electoral symbol “boat”.
The ruling party yesterday announced the names of only its chairmen candidates for 87 upazilas that will go to polls in the first phase on March 10.
The party also decided to refund Tk 5,000 each it had earlier collected from 3,485 vice-chairman aspirants.
According to Upazila Parishad Act 2009, elections will be held for three posts -- chairman, vice chairman and female vice chairman.
The mayors of municipalities, chairmen and members (from seats reserved for women) of municipalities and union parishads automatically become members of upazila parishads.
Before the announcement of the polls schedule, the AL decided that it would not issue nomination papers for the two vice-chairman posts.
After the schedule was announced on February 3, it changed the decision and began to sell nomination papers for the two positions alongside chairman post.
The party yesterday revised its decision, said an AL leader.
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader announced the names of its chairman candidates through a press conference at the party president's Dhanmondi office.
“The vice chairman posts in the election will remain open to all” he said.
The fifth upazila polls will be held in 480 out of the 492 upazilas between March and June in five phases and the EC so far announced schedules for the first two.
Elections to 87 upazila parishads will be held on March 10 in the first phase. The last date for submitting nomination papers is February 11 and for withdrawal is February 19. They will be scrutinised on February 12.
Election in 129 upazilas will be held on March 18 in the second phase.
The EC is planning to hold the third-phase polls on March 24, the fourth on March 31 and the fifth on June 18.
The BNP on January 24 announced that it will boycott the polls as it saw no prospect of a free and fair election.
A combine of eight left-leaning parties, Left Democratic Alliance, and Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan and Bangladesh Muslim League also have boycotted the polls.
The parties said the Election Commission “controlled by the government might stage a farcical election like the 11th national polls held on December 30”.
The Election Commission Secretariat has finalised a budget of Tk 740 crore for the upazila elections -- almost double the amount for 2014 polls, EC sources said.
Besides, the commission will also spend another Tk 170 crore in training officials on electronic voting machines in the election, carrying out awareness campaign, holding mock voting using EVMs and buying tablet PCs for election officials, they added.
“Budget for this year's upazila election increased as honorarium for election officials increased. Again, prices of different materials for using polls are on the rise too,” Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam told The Daily Star.
In 2014 upazila polls, the EC spent around Tk 383 crore and about Tk 185 crore of it was on security.