The first-ever local body elections in Bangladesh, marred by clashes and ballot-stuffing at several places, has seen voting suspended of an entire municipality and 17 polling centres. Voting at over 3,000 centres in 234 municipalities kicked off at 8am and ended at 4pm on Wednesday amid heightened security, agencies report. The polls for Narsingdhi’s Madhabdi Municipality has been suspended, which means ballots are being counted at 233 municipalities.
Clashes between supporters of the candidates and ballot-stuffing took place despite the Election Commission’s additional security measures for centres marked as ‘sensitive’. A man died in Chittagong during a clash between two councillor aspirants’ supporters, which took place within a kilometre of a voting centre.
Incidents like clashes, ballot-stuffing led officials of 17 polling stations in 11 municipalities to suspend voting in those places. Polling was suspended due to electoral malpractices at three centres in Chandnaish Municipality of Chittagong, two each in Madaripur and Kurhigram and one each in Comilla, Narhail, Barguna, Patukhali, Chandpur, Jamalpur and Mymensingh.
A polling station at Narshingdi’s Madhabdi was bombed, leaving the assistant returning officer injured. “I would have died and am lucky to be alive,” said Assistant Returning Officer Nazrul Islam. Locals said supporters of the Awami League’s mayoral candidate Haji Mosharrof Hossain and councillor aspirant Obaidur Rahman Titu unleashed violence to capture booths at the polling centre and tried to stuff boxes with stamped ballot papers.
An employee of the school told bdnews24.com: “The Awami League supporters tried to take over the booths and stamp ballot papers. That led to the violence.” After polling was suspended, Molotov cocktails and bombs were lobbed at the centre at around 11am.Deputy Commissioner Abu Hena Morshed Hossain and Superintendent of Police Amena Begum were both present at the centre at the time of the explosions.
One unexploded cocktail was also found at the centre. Two more crude bombs exploded 50 yards away from the centre at around 12pm, when the DC and the SP were leaving. Later in the afternoon, the Election Commission announced that it hadf suspended the election for the entire municipality.
“Voting has been suspended at the all the centres (of Madhabdi). The commission will announce a new date for voting later,” said EC election management wing official Rajib Ahsan.