Jatiya Party (JaPa) mayoral aspirant Md Mustafizur Rahman Mostafa has become the new mayor of Rangpur City Corporation (RpCC) by winning the election in a landslide as none of the other contenders posed a credible challenge.
Leaving Awami League’s Sharfuddin Ahmed Jhantu and BNP’s Kawsar Zaman Babla far behind, Mostafa with the JaPa symbol ‘plough’ bagged 160,489 votes in 193 polling centres across the city in the second RpCC election held on Thursday.
His nearest rival Jhantu, who had sought a re-election with ‘boat’ symbol, had pulled 62,400 votes, and Babla, with ‘paddy sheaf’ symbol, drew 35,136 votes from these centres.
The results were announced by Returning Officer Subhash Chandra Sarkar around 12:25am today from the control room set up in the city’s Police Community Hall.
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Election Commission officials are seen receiving results from different polling station at the control room set up in Police Community Hall in Rangpur on Thursday; December 21, 2017 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
After the final tally was declared, JaPa supporters brought out celebratory processions around the city, revelling in Mostafa’s huge win.
Mostafa told reporters: “I will serve the people of Rangpur city and stand by their side till my death. I will work alongside everyone regardless of party affiliation and difference of opinion.”
He also said that he will fulfill all his promises made to the city dwellers during the election campaign.
At a press briefing in Dhaka Thursday evening, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said his party will accept whoever the citizens of Rangpur pick to lead them as initial results indicated the ruling party candidate will be defeated.
“But fair politics and democracy have won in this election,” he said, adding that it has been proved that a fair and participatory election was possible under Sheikh Hasina’s administration.
“This is also a message for BNP ahead of the next general election.”
Bitterness and rejection
Awami League candidate Jhantu declined to talk to reporters when they converged at his home for comments. His supporters there and at the party office in the city were found looking miserable over his defeat.
Jhantu’s son Hemon, however, told reporters that his father will brief the media at the party office at 12pm today.
The outgoing mayor had also lost in the polling centre in his own area - Salema Girl’s High School at ward No 24 - to Mustafizur, by over 100 votes.
Around 9pm, Babla had rejected the results of the election at a press briefing at the BNP office, alleging vote rigging and mass irregularities at a number of polling stations.
“Voters were obstructed from going to the polling centres. Many people did not even go to cast their votes,” he alleged.
He also claimed that election officials did not heed his calls regarding the irregularities.
However, claiming the RpCC polls was ideal, Election Commissioner Md Rafiqul Islam after the voting ended told reporters that they had delivered on their promise to make it a proper example to follow.
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Jatiya Party mayoral candidate in RpCC election Md Mustafizur Rahman Mostafa | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
Security and the voting
Voting in the much-hyped polls had started in a festive mood at 8am and ended peacefully at 4pm Thursday, despite BNP’s allegations that the ruling party had attempted to manipulate the balloting to get its own candidates elected.
In the Begum Rokeya Government College polling station at ward No 25, which only hosted the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the JaPa candidate bagged 674 of the total 2,059 votes, the Awami League candidate 334 and the BNP candidate 117, while the rest of the votes went to others.
The success or failure of the KM Nurul Huda-led Election Commission is riding on this election since the RpCC polls is its second major election and a crucial test for the commission ahead of the 11th parliamentary polls in 2018.
Elections and law enforcement agency officials said security measures were ramped up around the city – with over 5,500 members of different law enforcement agencies deployed - to ensure hassle-free voting for the people at the polling centres.
Alongside them, 11 judicial magistrates and 33 executive magistrates were in the election areas to tackle any breach of the election code of conduct and violence. However, no such incident was reported throughout the day.
A total of 193 voting centres with 1,122 polling booths were set up for 393,994 voters of the city.
Even though there were seven mayoral aspirants in total, the main attraction of the polls for the locals was the triangular fight among Jhantu, Mostafa and Babla.
Apart from them, the four other mayoral candidates were JaPa chief HM Ershad’s nephew former MP Hossain Maqbool Shahriar Asif, Golam Mustafa, Abdul Kuddus and Selim Akhtar.
After casting their votes on Thursday, the Awami League and JaPa candidates had said the voting was fair and they were happy. But the BNP candidate expressed concern over possible rigging of votes.
BNP at a press briefing in Dhaka Thursday also alleged that their polling agents were forced out of some centres while administration obstructed people from going to the cast their votes.
Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda, however, rejected the allegations terming them baseless. “No voters came up with any allegation. So, these claims do not seem to be authentic,” he told reporters.