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Dhaka City polls put EVMs, BD Election Commission to test

Dhaka City polls put EVMs, BD Election Commission to test

The elections to two city corporations of Dhaka North and South have generated much enthusiasm among the candidates of the two posts of Mayors and around 172 posts of Ward Councillors including 43 for women in reserved wards. But the high commands of the two major contending parties – The Awami League (AL) and the Nationalist Party (BNP) – have pointed accusing fingers at each other questioning each other’s sincerity to ensure smooth polling. Before the electioneering came to an end on Thursday midnight, as per directives of the Election Commission, candidates filled street intersections with black and white posters while microphones sang election songs composed to suit their contests while supporters of some candidates brought out processions to seek votes from the electorate.
Yet central leaders of Awami League blamed the BNP for what they termed bringing armed ‘Gundas’ (hooligans) to the capital from across the country to create trouble during the polls. In reply, BNP leaders said it was the AL which has fielded 3m armed people in the city. The people won’t believe AL’s aĺlegations, they said.
Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has urged the foreign diplomats to behave responsibly while a senior advisor to the government has cautioned against dominance by one ‘state’. In response, nine foreign diplomats have come up with a joint local statement that they want to see democracy is functioning.
Main contender BNP has opposed the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the polling complaining that these could be manipulated to rig the election. The Election Commission has rejected the plea. In the run-up to the elections, two mayor candidates of the BMP Tabith Awal and Ishraque Hossain came under separate attacks while there was a bitter clash between supporters of AL and BNP nominated candidates at Hatkhola in Old Dhaka. Ishraque Hossain has faced a graft accusation while Tabith had to clear his way to the contest from the court.
Nearly 5.5 million voters are to cast their votes at 2,468 polling centres from 8 am to 4 pm without any break. A total of 13 candidates are vying for two posts of mayors and 7500 are contesting for 172 posts of Councillors. In fact, the councillor candidates have kept the wards heated with their election campaigns from door to door.
Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has called for not allowing into polling stations local people registered as foreign observers and said that some foreign missions have violated election rules by nominating their local staff to observe the elections. A total of 1013 local observers from 13 organisations and 74 others working as foreign observers are to observe the polls.
Meanwhile, Sazib Wajed Joy, adviser to the Prime Minister for ICT Affairs has predicted landslide victories for AL’s mayor candidates Atiqul Islam and Fazle Noor Taposh quoting from survey findings. In response BNP’s Dhaka South mayor candidate Ishraque Hossain said their surveys showed BNP candidates were ahead with 80 percent voter support.
With the movement of all types of vehicles banned from Friday midnight the buzz on the streets of the capital came to near silence, but young people were found crowding near polling stations in groups. These elections are going to be a test for the EVMs as well as the Election Commission for its ability to present hassle-free polling.