By Faruque Ahmed

Rigging election has become a pattern and part of political game plan in our country where the ruling party had always exploited the system and still exploiting it to win elections. What is however noticeable is that the severity of the rigging and its shameless demonstration in open defiance of public eyes has now crossed almost all limits.

It is surprising voters turn at Khulna City Corporation election was over was 99.94 percent at a polling center closer to ruling party candidate’s home. At some other centers it was 97.60 percent and 81.61 percent at a time when the overall presence has been claimed at around 63 percent. BNP said it was not more than 32 percent.

People were watching the KCC election as a prelude to the national election to see whether it would be free and fair or chaos would defeat expectations of a peaceful election. The KCC elections results and the way it was held came to them as a big frustration.

To many election is no more election but a ritual to deceive the people. Ruling elite are routinely using the system to legitimize their claims over seat of power—be it at local bodies or at national level elections. Who will win election and who will be denied of the victory in such election is a pre-planned matter and the KCC election proved it once again.

The UN has expressed concern over the KCC election irregularities and has given call for holding free and fair election in Bangladesh and asked the government to show respect for free and fair election. US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat has also expressed disappointment over the reported irregularities and intimidation in KCC election and called for transparent investigation saying this is very disappointing.

Local election monitoring groups have found many irregularities in the polls but the truth is that the ruling party candidate has won the highly watched election in the run up to national election. The state machineries were quite indifferent to complaints. BNP has rejected the polls results saying it showed the dress rehearsal of the ruling party for the upcoming national election. There is no way to keep the election saved from rigging, irregularities and intimidation.    

What happened in the KCC election held on Tuesday was nothing surprising; rather the results were expected from before as bureaucrats, law enforcing agencies, poll agents, and the Election Commission (EC) itself worked closely to bring an easy victory to the ruling party mayoral candidate Talukder Abdul Khalek.

BNP candidate Nazrul Islam Manju’s complaint were not taken into cognizance as the ruling party men rounded up most polling centers and sealed ballot to win the election protected by members of the law enforcement agencies.

They exploited the election machinery in a way that denied the city dwellers to freely elect a mayor and councilors of their choice. Like the January 5 national election, as per news media report, the KCC poll was openly rigged and staffing of ballots by ruling party men went unabated.

Goons crowded in and around the poling centers creating panic to bar voters of BNP candidate. At places they took control of the polling center, where BNP candidate’s polling agents were beaten and expelled from many centers. At many places voters found their votes were already cast.  

BBC Bangla Service report highlighted these irregularities from the spot although the ruling party has claimed elections were peaceful and the EC Secretary Helal Uddin said it was an ‘excellent’ election except irregularities at three polling centers where polling has been suspended.

Awami League mayoral candidate Talukder Abdul Khaleque who has won the election by 174,851 votes was defeated by BNP mayoral candidate Moniruzzaman Moni in 2013 city polls by a margin of over 71,000 votes.

Khaleque resigned his MP post this time to become ruling party’s mayoral candidate to defeat BNP candidate Nazrul Islam Manju this time. Talukder won the KCC election but it can hardly be claimed as a free election acceptable to all.

Meanwhile election to Gazipur City Corporation (GCC) was postponed by a High Court order on a writ early this month by a ruling party man but restored again by the Supreme Court. It appears the EC was not even informed when the court was postponing the election and the truth is that the government is in fact deciding when to hold the election and how to hold it. The EC is working like a rubber stamp undermining the creditability of election and people’s confidence in the voting system. KCC election showed it again.

Reports on most polling centers are highly disturbing. Of all the 286 KCC polling centers, voters turnout  was reported 99.94 percent at Nayabati Haji Shariatullah Bidyapith in ward-10 breaking all records. It is one of several polling centers that saw unrealistic voter turnouts while the overall turnout was claimed at 63 percent.

In the Nayabati centre, Khaleque got 1,114 votes while BNP’s Nazrul Islam Monju received 373 votes. An election official agreed, “Such casting of vote is unusual… It may happen due to some irregularities.” But on a question whether he would report it to the EC, he declined to comment, said a report in a national daily.

At two other polling centers in Natun Bazar Government Primary School election officials found seemingly unrealistic numbers. There were two polling centers inside the school premises in Natun Bazar area where Talukder Abdul Khaleque residence is located.

The results showed the turnout of one of the centers was 91.38 percent. But when newsmen visited the centre at noon the turnout stood only at 37 percent. Khaleque got 1,202 votes and Monju 141.

The turnout of the other centre was 81.63 percent. The polling center at Maulana Bhashani Bidyapith in Khalishpur is another example. The centre recorded 97.60 percent turnout.

Record level 88.62 percent turnout was also reported at Jahannagar Government Primary School centre while Nayabati Janakalyan Government Primary School centre had 87.57 percent voters’ turnout.  Of the total 286 centers, three centers saw a turnout of over 90 percent, three other over 85 percent, six centers recorded over 80 percent voters presence, 12 over 75 percent. At 30 centers over 70 percent votes were reportedly cast.

  • Courtesy — Friday, May 18, 2018.