'Despite the government’s claims of holding fair and neutral elections under its rule, the reality is different'
Out of parliament opposition BNP is looking for a fresh strategy to ensure victory for its nominated mayoral candidate in the upcoming Gazipur City Corporation election, one of the strongholds of the ruling Awami League.
The party is presently trying to identify reasons behind its defeat in the recently held Khulna City Corporation (KCC) polls. The BNP thinks this exercise will help the party woo voters more effectively and win the election in Gazipur.
The party’s top brass made the disclosure to the Dhaka Tribune.
In the Khulna city polls, BNP backed candidate Nazrul Islam Monju, who lost the battle with Awami League’s Talukder Abdul Khaleque by about 68,000 votes, blamed widespread irregularities, vote rigging, and illegal stuffing of ballots for his loss.
Several top BNP leaders claimed that their party candidate failed in the Khulna city election because an impartial, fair, and neutral election cannot be held under this government, and the matter was proven in the recently held polls.
They believe that the party was organizationally ready to win the election, and the result would have been different if the rampant irregularities, expulsion of BNP agents from centers, casting of false ballots, and vote rigging had not taken place.
Commenting on the issue, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told the Dhaka Tribune: “We have got an idea from the Khulna city polls on how the next elections will play out.”
Also Read- AL: KCC polls free, fair and peaceful
“Despite the government’s claims of holding fair and neutral elections under its rule, the reality is different, as is evident in the Khulna election. We are taking all the factors and aspects under consideration.”
Adding that the BNP is planning to adopt a different strategy for the Gazipur city polls, Fakhrul said: “We are working to bring victory for our candidate, but that is only possible if the election is held in a fair manner.
“We are participating in the city polls just because we need to. We have seen how the ruling party tackled the Khulna city polls, and we will have our counter strategy for dealing with their activities in the Gazipur election.”
Meanwhile, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi commented that the Khulna city election has helped the party get an idea of how ‘autocratic’ next general elections will look like.
Speaking with the correspondent, Rizvi said: “People have realized that a free and fair election under this government is impossible. We want the next general polls under a neutral government.
“Under the Awami League government, elections would not be held in a fair manner. We want the government's resignation, as well as the release of our party chairperson Khaleda Zia from prison. Otherwise, a fair election is not possible.”
Was the Khulna city election fair?
The BNP has alleged that a number of irregularities took place during the recently held city corporation election in Khulna, including vote rigging, casting fake ballots, and pulling BNP polling agents from centres.
The party also claimed that the outcome would have been different had the election been held in a fair and impartial manner.
Director of Election Working Group (EWG) Dr Abdul Alim commented that there were irregularities in the mayoral election of Khulna city, but not enough to justify a cancellation of the polls.
According to EWG, violence was reported in 32% of the polling centres in the Khulna city polls, but it did not affect the results.
EWG also mentioned that there was violence outside 12 and inside four polling centres, voters were obstructed from casting their votes in 18 centres, invigilators were barred from entering four centres, promotional activities were conducted within 400 metres of 10 centres, and law enforcers took the sides of favoured candidates in four centres.
“We have monitored 145 centres and found that stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes occured in 28 centres, barring voters from casting votes occurred in 18 centres, and voting was suspended at 10 centres,” Dr Alim told the Dhaka Tribune.
After the Khulna election, expressing dissatisfaction over irregularities, US ambassador for Dhaka Marcia Bernicat called for transparent investigation into the incidents, to prevent a repetition of such incidents.
However, the Awami League, on various occasions has claimed that the election in Khulna was free, fair, and peaceful.
‘AL received preferential treatment’
The BNP mayoral candidate for the upcoming Gazipur City Corporation election has claimed that the administration and the Election Commission are giving preferential treatment to the ruling party candidate.
The election is scheduled to be held on June 26, 2018.
BNP’s mayoral candidate for Gazipur, Hasanuddin Sarkar told the correspondent: “We will surely win the election if the election in Gazipur is held free of vote rigging. The ruling party candidate is enjoying unauthorized facilities here, which only make us more concerned.”
Sarkar, who is also a BNP executive committee member, added: “We do expect a fair election from the government. If the situation remains neutral from the campaign time to the end of voting in Gazipur, BNP would surely achieve victory.”
“Formal campaigning for the Gazipur City Corporation election is scheduled to begin on June 18. However, Awami League candidates have not only begun their campaigning in person, but they are also using loudspeakers, which is a clear violation of the electoral code of conduct,” claimed Sarkar.
The BNP nominated candidate pointed out that if he acted such way, the government will consider it a violation of the law.
He, however, warned that if anyone tries to hold an unfair election in the area, they will face protest by none other than the voters of Gazipur.
In the last Gazipur city election, which was held in 2013, BNP vice chairman and former state minister for religious affairs Professor MA Mannan had secured a landslide victory by defeating city unit Awami League President and former mayor of Tongi Municipality Advocate Azmat Ullah Khan, by a margin of around 100,000 votes.