Balloting ends in Dhaka city elections; ‘turnout low’

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Dhaka, Feb 01: Balloting in the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) came to an end at 4 pm on Saturday amid ‘low voter turnout’ and reports of sporadic violence and allegations of BNP agents being driven out of polling stations.The full-fledged use of Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs for recording votes instead of traditional ballot papers evoked mixed reactions from both voters and politicians.

The voting began at 8am and continued till 4pm without any break. The two city corporations had more than 5.45 million voters.

Though initial reports give an impression of low voter turnout, there was no official word yet on the turnout.

Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina cast her vote at Dhaka City College centre on Saturday morning.

Awami League candidate Atiqul Islam and BNP’s Tabith Awal are leading the race for the mayor’s office in DNCC. In DSCC, the mayoral race is being led by AL’s Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh and BNP’s Ishraque Hossain.

Tabith voiced doubts about fair voting and brought allegations, including obstruction of his agents from entering many polling centres and intimidating voters.

“Considering the overall situation, it seems to me we’re not heading towards a fair election. There have been efforts since morning to destroy the election environment by creating panic and launching attacks,” he said, complaining that there were issues with EVM.

Ishraque said there had been attempts to occupy a polling station which was foiled thanks to the efforts of locals and our party supporters. “I’m confident that we’ll surely win if we can save all polling centres,” he said.

Jatiya Oikya Front Convener Dr Kamal Hossain was unhappy with the low voter turnout, which he said might be caused by a lack of confidence in the election system. He also complained that casting votes took quite some time.

Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said he was happy with the overall atmosphere of the Dhaka city elections and hoped that the voter turnout would increase with time.

About BNP’s allegation that its agents were being driven out of polling centres, he said: “Polling agents driven out of voting centres should go to the presiding officers, magistrates and law enforcers and enter polling stations with their help.”

Violence

There were reports of attack on two BNP councillor candidates in the morning.

Meanwhile, blasts were reported the main branch of Monipur High School in Pirerbagh of Mirpur around 7:30am, Ashraf High School around 8am and Uttar Kafrul High School around 7:45am.

Three journalists were injured in separate attacks while covering the Dhaka city election.

The victims are – Mostafizur Rahman Sumon, a reporter of online news portal Agami.com, Poriborton.com photojournalist Osman Goni and Zihad Iqbal, a special correspondent of a news agency.

BNP’s Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) candidate Tabith Awal’s main polls agent Moazzem Hossain Alal came under a bomb attack in Monipur on Saturday morning.

A group of miscreants hurled five bombs at his vehicle when he was visiting Monipur High School and College (Branch-2) in Ibrahimpur area around noon, said Mahmud Hasan, the media coordinator of Tabith.

At Dhaka University, a man was assaulted reportedly by Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) activists near the Curzon Hall on Dhaka University campus in the morning after he voted for BNP candidates.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Earl Miller and British High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson visited a number of polling stations but did not interact with the media.