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Municipality polls: Expectations and frustration in voters

  • Published at 09:27 pm February 15th, 2021
Bogra 2nd phase municipality polls
File photo: Long line of female voters at Bashipur Government Primary School to cast their franchise in the Santahar municipality polls In Bogra district on Saturday, January 16, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

Clashes and boycotts mark 4th phase of voting in 56 municipalities

To exercise their voting right and with hopes and dreams that new mayors would ensure all modern facilities for them, voters participated in the 4th phase of the municipality polls on Sunday.

Daka Tribune correspondents around the country asked voters why they were exercising their right of franchise and what they hoped would be achieved by it.
Most people said they believed voting was the duty of a citizen and they hoped that those elected to public office would work for development and improve people’s access to services.

Robin Chowdhury, a resident of Patiya upazila in Chittagong, where a councillor candidate’s brother was stabbed to death during a clash on Sunday, said it was his civic responsibility to vote.   

“It is my civic responsibility to cast a vote. We should elect honest and qualified people to office through elections so that they can serve people better. Public representatives should address civic problems,” he told Dhaka Tribune’s Chittagong correspondent Anwar Hussain.

Twenty-year-old Akkas Munshi, a first-time voter in Barisal’s Banaripara, said,  “I came to vote out of a sense of duty and to exercise my right.”

A voter in Tangail’s Kalihati, Md Rafiq, said he had voted for the person who he thought was “the right candidate”.

“The person who is elected should work for the development of the area and the people.” 

Mamun, a voter in the same district’s Gopalpur, says: "I hope that citizens can get civic services easily. Citizens should not suffer in getting services.“

Tajul Islam, a former principal of Ranisankail upazila of Thakurgaon, said Ranisankail municipality was one of the most neglected municipalities of the country.

“People here are deprived of a modern drainage system, improved and illuminated roads, and medical system. I, as a citizen, demand that the new mayor and councilors ensure these things,” he added.

A voter in Thakurgaon municipality, Sujon, says that the district town lacks a place where people can relax in a natural environment and engage in cultural activities.  “I hope the new mayor will address this issue.” 

“Once the preferred candidate is selected, there will be an opportunity to come up with possible proposals for the development of the area,” he added.

Jahanara Khatun of Satkhira says she expects the new mayor to work to protect women’s rights and dignity.

For Jahid Hasan Palash from Rajshahi’s Nauhata municipality, infrastructure development is the priority.

According to him, there has been no development in the last 10 years. Roads and drainage systems in the municipality have deteriorated and need to be renovated. 

And Sohel Rana Russell from Godgari said he had voted for the candidate who pledged to keep his locality free of drugs.

EVM excitement 

Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), used in the polls at 29 municipalities, have been a hit with voters. Most seemed to love using it to exercise their franchise. However, many faced trouble with fingerprints.

“I came to vote to see how the EVM works and how to cast a vote in it,” said Abdul Jalil from Satkhira.

Kusum Rani had to be carried to the polling station due to a chronic knee pain. “My grandson carried me to the polling station. I am happy to have cast my vote through EVM for the first time,” said the 84-year-old.

But Jamal Bepari was not so lucky. He could not vote as his fingerprints did not match.

Violence discouraging voters

Voting in the 4th phase of the municipality polls ended with reports of sporadic violence, boycotts and seizure of polling centres.

A man was killed in Chittagong and several others were injured in polls-related violence across the country.

Ziaul Haque Emon, a resident of Chittagong’s Mirsarai upazila, said that he had lost interest in the polls due to the rising election-related violence.

“It’s now become a foregone conclusion as to who will win the elections. For me, going to the polling station is nothing but a waste of time. Soon after winning the polls, the public representatives conveniently forget their voters,” he added.

Farzana Islam, from Raozan upazila in Chittagong, says she thinks the recent elections are “nothing but a farce”..

“I did not go to cast my vote. The recent clashes were a deterrent for me. I think the polls now have turned out to be a mockery.”