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11th general elections: Preparation in 299 constituencies

  • Published at 11:30 am December 28th, 2018
Ballot papers are sent to different parts of the country from the Election Commission on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The polling is scheduled to take place on Sunday  

The Election Commission has completed its last-minute preparations for the upcoming 11th parliamentary election.

This time, 39 registered political parties are going to take part in the general polls. After 10 years, a participatory election is going to be held as all the major parties, including Awami League and BNP, are all set to compete. 

Both Awami League and BNP have their own alliances. However, Islamic Andolan Bangladesh has contesting the election as a lone political party in 292 constituencies of the total 300.

About 104.2 million voters will exercise their franchise in 299 of the 300 constituencies across the country; voting has been postponed in Gaibandha 3 by the commission due to the death of the Jatiya Oikya Front candidate.

The commission has scheduled January 27 for Gaibandha 3 constituency’s election. 

The total number of candidates is 1,861, among whom 128 are contesting independently.

More than 700,000 members of law enforcement agencies will ensure law and order during the election.

Candidates started campaigning on December 10, after they were allocated their electoral symbols. Friday 8am was the deadline for election campaigning.

On Thursday, Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain said: “We are fully prepared for the parliamentary election.”

Important polling centres

There are 40,183 polling centres and 207,312 polling booths in the 299 constituencies. Among them, 25,827 (64%) of polling centres have been marked as important by the commission.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said: “We cannot say they are ‘risky,’ we have labelled these voting centres as ‘important.’ We have a special arrangement for these centres. Additional law enforcement members have been deployed to these centres. All the authorities concerned, and administrative bodies, have been advised to be careful about these voting centres.”

Law enforcement agencies’ duties

More than 700,000 members of law enforcement agencies have been assigned election duties.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Coast Guard, Ansar, and police are already in the field — to ensure security — plus the army is deployed across the country, to act as a striking force during the election.

Each of the law enforcement agencies, along with the army, will cooperate and coordinate with the executive magistrate of the constituency concerned, during the polls.

According to Election Commission sources, police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and the Armed Police Battalion were deployed across the country December 26 on election duty and will remain till January 1.

Election related materials are being transferred across the country ahead of the 11th general polls, from the Election Commission office in Agargaon, on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Election Commission Joint Secretary Farhad Ahmed Khan said: “On December 18, around 1,016 BGB platoons were sent out across the country, and 980 BGB platoons (around 29,400 personnel) were deployed as mobile striking force.

“About 420 Army platoons (12,600 personnel) were deployed in 389 upazilas on December 24. Fifty Bangladesh Navy platoons (1,500 personnel), and 40 Coast Guard platoons (1,200 personnel) will be deployed soon.

“Special security teams of 10-12 members have been formed. Adding to this, around 40,000 village police members will be on duty for the election,” he added.

Election Budget 

The total budget for the 11th parliamentary election is Tk702 crore and Tk392.93 crore has been allotted for law enforcement agencies to ensure law and order during the election.

Election observers and foreign journalists

The Election Commission has approved a total of 25,920 election observers from 81 different organizations and 188 foreign observers, to observe the upcoming polls. So far, 56 foreign journalists have registered to cover the general polls.

Among the observers, 220 have been appointed to monitor the voting in Khagrachhari alone – the highest number in a constituency.

Meanwhile, Dhaka 3 constituency has only 13 observers – the lowest in the country.

Election instruments

All the election materials have already been sent to upazila returning officers—including ballot papers, postal ballots, and marking seals, along with other stationary.

Election Commissioner Shahadat said: “All election related materials, including ballot papers, have reached most of the constituencies. Helicopters from Bangladesh Air Force are prepared for any emergency. Electronic voting machines (EVMs) have also been sent to the six selected constituencies.”

The commission started distributing ballot papers—among the returning officers in 293 constituencies out of total 300 constituencies—in December. In six constituencies, EVMs will be used to cast votes. 

The ballot papers were printed by Government Printing Press, Bangladesh Government Press (BG press), and the Security Printing Press.

The Election Commission has kept two helicopters ready to send ballot papers in case of emergency.

Electronic voting machines

EVMs are going to be used for the first time in a general election in the history Bangladesh.

EVMs have only ever been used in local government elections before this.

Among the 299 constituencies, EVMs are to be used in 6 constituencies: Dhaka 6, Dhaka 13, Chittagong 9, Rangpur 3, Khulna 2, and Satkhira 2.

In the 845 voting centres of these six constituencies the total number of voters is 212,441. A total 4,750 EVMs will be used to cast votes for these constituencies. 

Magistrates to ensure electoral code of conduct

According to commission sources, 1361 executive magistrates, and 640 judicial magistrates will perform election duties.

Right after campaignsbegan, magistrates were deployed by the Election Commission to ensure all the parties properly adhered to the electoral code of conduct.

The magistrates are to conduct drives to prevent the violation of the electoral code of conduct. A judicial magistrate can hand down maximum seven-year jail sentence, while an executive magistrate can sentence an offender to a maximum of two years in jail.

Vehicular movement controlled

According to a notice issued by the Road Transport and Highways Division last week, no motorcycles will be allowed, except the ones used by journalists from 12am Saturday till 12am Tuesday. No motor vehicles will be allowed for 24 hours, starting from 12am Saturday to 12am Monday; the scheduled date for voting for the 11th parliamentary election.

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