Reports of violence, centre occupation, BNP-backed candidate’s detention and boycott sum up Wednesday’s city corporation election in the premier port city
Voting in the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) election ended amid multiple reports of clashes from all around the city on Wednesday.
Two people died from injuries sustained in violent clashes within hours after voting began in the highly anticipated CCC polls.
One man, Md Alauddin Alam, 28, was shot dead during a clash between two rival councillor candidates within hours of voting commencing in Ambagan in the city's Khulshi area.
Another young man, Nizam Uddin Munna, 35, a resident of Pahartali, was killed in an attack by his brother reportedly over a dispute centering the election, reports UNB.
Meanwhile, violence and clashes forced Election Commission officials to suspend voting at two polling centres in the port city.
'Gunfight' at Ambagan
Alauddin Alam received a gunshot wound after he was reportedly caught in the middle of a gunfight at Ambagan in the city's Khulshi area. Five others also sustained bullet injuries at that time.
Witnesses said the clash ensued between supporters of two councillor candidates, AL-backed Wasim Uddin Chowdhury and rebel candidate Mahmudur Rahman.
The incident took place in front of UCEP Ambagan Technical School polling centre under Pahartali Ward 13 at 9am.
At one stage, both groups fired shots, triggering a chase and counter chase. Alam along with five others sustained bullet injuries during the incident. Later, they were taken to Chittagong Medical College and Hospital.
Victim’s brother Jasim said: “Alauddin went out to have breakfast in the morning. He was supposed to go to work after breakfast. As soon as he reached the polling centre, supporters of Wasim Uddin Chowdhury started shooting and he was caught in the middle."
Confirming the matter to the Dhaka Tribune, ASI Alauddin Talukder of Chittagong Medical College Hospital police outpost said that the on-duty doctor pronounced him dead on arrival.
"The youth sustained bullet injuries in the abdomen," he said.
Sibling rivalry over election candidate
Rashedul Haque, officer-in-charge of Pahartali police station, said Munna’s death came from an altercation with his brother as he was an activist of Pahartali ward unit Chhatra League and a supporter of Awami League rebel candidate Saber Ahmed, while his brother Salauddin Quamrul was the supporter of Awami League-backed councillor candidate Nurul Amin.
The siblings had an altercation over the election as Munna wanted to go to polling stations.
At one stage, Salauddin attacked Munna with a sharp weapon, leaving him dead on the spot. On information, police went to the spot and recovered the body. Police could not arrest Salauddin as he managed to flee the scene.
Clash at Lalkhan Bazar leaves 25 injured
Another clash broke out in Lalkhan Bazar between supporters of Awami League backed councillor candidate Abul Hasnat and rebel candidate F Kabir Ahmed in front of the Lalkhan Bazar Shaheed City Corporation Girls’ High School polling centre.
At least 25 people were injured in the chase and counter-chase, according to media reports.
Voting suspended at 2 polling centres
Voting has been suspended at two polling centres in Patharghata’s Ward 34 under Kotwali police station in the city as the much anticipated Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) election progresses amid reports of violence.
On allegations of occupying the centres, vandalising and violence, the returning officer concerned took the decision in the afternoon, according to media reports.
Confirming the matter, Assistant Returning Officer Bulbul Ahmmed said that the voting was suspended at two centres of Patharghata Girls High School around 11am following an attack on the polling centres and vandalism of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) inside.
Witnesses said that several thousand outsiders stormed into the polling centres and went on a rampage.
They vandalized EVMs and swooped on the polling officials.
Thin presence of voters
While visiting National Government Primary School polling centre of the city’s Jamal Khan area, it was found that only 232 votes were cast against a total of 2,377 female votes, which means 9.76% vote was cast till 1:53pm.
In the male centre of the same polling centre, it was found that 474 votes were cast against 2,346 votes, which means 20.20% vote was cast till 2:05 pm.
During a visit to Municipal Model School & College polling centre, it was found that 345 votes were cast against 2,458 votes in total, which means that 14% vote was cast till 2:30pm.
While visiting the Bakalia Government College, it was found that 79 votes were cast against 2,750 votes in total, which means 2.87% vote was cast till 10:02 am.
BNP’s agents out of the scene
While visiting different polling centres of the city, it was seen that the ruling party supporters were crowding the polling centre while the BNP men were not found in and around the centre.
The ruling party men were seen taking position inside and outside the polling centre. However, no BNP supporter was spotted there.
The ruling party men in their hundreds were seen entering and exiting the polling centres without any let or hindrance while the police were playing the role of idle onlookers.
Yousuf Talukder, a voter of Kazir Dewri Primary School polling centre alleged that he went to the polling centre only to find that his vote has already been cast by someone else.
BNP mayoral candidate Dr Shahadat Hossain, while speaking to the media, alleged that BNP polling agents were forcefully evicted from several polling centres as soon as the voting began.
He made the statement while inspecting the Teachers' Training College polling centre in the port city.
BNP-backed councillor candidate detained
Police detained the BNP-backed councillor candidate Ismail Hossain Bali on the charge of creating unrest at a number of polling centres at Ward 34 at Patharghata area under Kotwali police station in the city.
Confirming the matter, CMP Additional Deputy Commissioner Palash Kanti Nath said that the councillor candidate was detained for creating anarchy and unrest at the polling centres.
Councillor candidate of reserved seat boycotts polls
A BNP-backed councillor candidate for the reserved women's seats has announced to boycott the polls.
Monowara Begum Moni, councillor candidate from Ward 14, 15 and 21 said she decided to boycott the polls as she was barred from casting vote.
"I could not enter the polling centre, obstructed by the ruling party men. My polling agents were driven out of the polling centre," she said.
Voting in the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) election, which was postponed 10 months ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic, began on Wednesday around 8am and continued till 4pm without any break.
Other than Awami League's Rezaul Karim Chowdhury and BNP's Shahadat Hossain, five other people are contesting for the mayoral post this time.
Also, 237 people are contending for the 39 councillor seats and 14 reserved councillor seats for women.
Earlier, Chittagong Metropolitan Police had identified 429 polling centres out of a total of 735 centres as “important” (risky), which is 58% of the total number of polling centres, due to the previous history of violence and strife among the contesting candidates and the latest polls situation.
Rizvi: Election is nothing but a farce
"This election is nothing but a farce on an unimaginable level. Fair elections remain out of the reach of people under this government," said BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi while speaking to reporters, reports UNB.
BNP polling agents, mayoral and councilor candidates were driven out from most of the polling stations just after voting began in the morning, Rizvi said.
Quader: Election is fairly peaceful
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has said the CCC election was held in a “fairly peaceful” manner by stopping the BNP from thwarting the election.
Quader made the remarks from his official residence at a video conference yesterday afternoon.
“Turnout was satisfactory despite fears over the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Quader added that voter turnout had been less than expected as no public holiday was declared on the occasion of the election and public transport was suspended.
The ruling party general secretary said: “BNP activists resorted to violence through terrorist activities and tried to blame Awami League leaders and activists by creating an unstable situation during the polls,” Quader added.