The countrywide Union Parishad election is going to begin on Tuesday with balloting set to take place in 718 UPs in the first phase.The voting will open at 8am and continue till 4pm without any break.
Election to the lowest tier of the local government body is going to be held along the party lines for the first time, although only for the chairman post.
As many as 14 political parties out of 40 registered ones are participating in the first phase polls, providing nearly 1800 chairman candidates out of over 3000. The remaining 1200-plus are independent candidates.
Candidates from two major political parties ruling Awami League and its arch rival BNP start as frontrunners in the election. But BNP has no chairman candidate in some 120 UPs whereas AL in only one UP.
Fifty-four chairman candidates, all from the ruling party, have already been elected unopposed finding no rival against their respective post. They comprise 32 candidates in Bagerhat, 10 in Madaripur, 3 in Gopalganj, two each in Bhola and Brahmanbaria, and one each in Khulna, Satkhira, Barisal, Jhalakati and Munshiganj.
In the first phase election, some 1.19 crore voters will be eligible to exercise their franchise under nearly 7,000 polling stations.
The Election Commission has completed all necessary preparations to arrange the polls, said Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad at a press briefing at the EC Secretariat on Monday.
He said special measures have been taken to prevent the stuffing of ballot boxes with fake votes cast on ballot papers on the eve of the first phase of the Union Parishad elections.
“Foolproof security measures have been taken for tonight at each poling station. In case of illegal activity of any polling station, both the police official engaged at the polling station and officer in-charge of the police station concerned will be held responsible for this.”
If anyone, including election officials and members of law enforcement agencies, are seen to be negligent in performing duty, prompt action will be taken against the responsible person, he warned.
A monitoring cell, headed by UNO has been formed in each Upazila to monitor overall election situation, he added.
A total of five magistrates – four executive and one judicial magistrate- remain deployed in each Upazila to curb violation of election code of conduct. More than 1,80,000 security members — police, Rab, BGB, Coast Guard and Ansar– remain deployed in election areas.
Alongside the magistrates, three teams of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and three teams of Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) are working as mobile and striking forces in each Upazila to maintain electoral environment for the four days.
Besides, mobile teams comprising of Police, APBn and Ansar remain deployed in each UP as mobile teams.
For each coastal upazila, two teams (two platoons) of Coast Guard remain as mobile force, while one platoon of the agency is being kept as striking force.
Meanwhile, a 19-member security team comprising five policemen, two Battalion Ansar men with arms and 12 embedded Ansar/VDP members will protect each vulnerable polling centre on the balloting day. In case of each ‘normal’ polling station, the number of the team members will be 17 due to lower chance of violence, with two less policemen.
As part of the first phase election, 718 UPs are going to polls on Tuesday, while 11 UPs of Nagarpur of Tangail on Wednesday and two UP of Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar on March 27.
As per factsheet provided by the EC, some 3000 candidates for chairman posts are in the election race, in addition to 7,500 women candidates for reserved seats and over 25,000 contenders for member posts in the phase.
The EC so far announced the election schedule for the first three phases as part of its plan to arrange elections in 4275 out of the country’s 4546 UPs in six phases by June.
BNP on Monday alleged that ruling party men with the help of the administration took control over almost all the polling stations across the country and stuffed ballot boxes hours ahead of the voting of the first phase union parishad polls.
“You all know the first phase of election will also be held tomorrow (Tuesday). But, the ballots boxes have already been stuffed by ruling party cadres,” said BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
Speaking at a press briefing at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office, he also alleged that the government is stanching municipal mayoral and UP chairman posts like a demon. “It seems they’re giving the last bite before their fall.”
The BNP leader said ruling part men have intensified their repressive and terrorists acts before the voting to ensure the victory of their candidates.
Besides, he alleged, their candidates and leaders and activists are being arrested and intimidated to leave their respective areas. “The houses of our leaders and activists are being raided to force them to leave their areas.”
Rizvi bemoaned that Awami League men and law enforcers are threatening BNP candidates’ agents, their relatives, supporters to kill, make disappeared and implicate in ‘conspiratorial’ cases if they go to the polling stations. “The BNP candidates and its leaders and activists are now passing their days in insecurity.”
He alleged that the Election Commission and the law enforcers are not taking any action against those violating the election code of conduct and resorting to terrorists acts despite repeated complaints have been lodged with them. “The Election Commission has not only failed, but also emerged as a criminal one. It’s pampering the government to indulge in criminal activities.”
He urged the Election Commission to take stern action by checking the criminal activities by the ruling party men and law enforcers to ensure a fair balloting. “Or else, the consequences will be very dire,” he added.