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News analysis

UZ elections turned into rigging festival

By Special Correspondent
25th-Mar-2014       
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The nation remained largely a bystander as the 4th phase of Upazila Elections took place on Sunday in open festivity of rigging of votes, capturing of polling centers and snatching of  ballot boxes by ruling party men.
Four persons were killed on Sunday's election held at 91 upazilas in 41 districts amidst fights and violence at most places where ruling party cadres reportedly stuffed ballot boxes in the previous night or early hours of the day taking the presiding officers hostage in their hand.  
The reports are quite disturbing and we don't know how we can say it an election at all or accept it as such, because the act of election has turned out to be an open vote robbery under the guise of law enforcers and the local administration. There is no justification of holding an election if the voters don't get the freedom to cast their votes in a violence-free environment.
To us election has become a technical act of voting and may be a way of spending public money by the ruling party to cheer up activists at the grass roots. It has therefore set up the administration in a way which gives support to the ruling party schemes of things to help it continue in power. Otherwise they have no business to stay closer to power. But by conceding to converting public administration as subservient to ruling party's political objectives, police and local officials are harming the nation all the more by working to destroy the country's democratic institutions and its multi-party system.
But we are bewildered to hear the Acting Chief Election Commissioner Abul Mubarak as saying, the Sunday's highly volatile election was rather a free and fair election, barring some incidents.
In reaction to the media, he said "Alhamdulillah, we are satisfied with the voting atmosphere." As we see, he was talking against the truth in the ground and at least he should not have implored the mercy of God in this political gimmick.
He tends to ignore the killing and rigging to give the election a clean cheat and HT Imam, Prime Minister's adviser on public administration and co-chairman of election steering, was quick to praise the EC for holding a free, fair election neutrally.
HT Imam claimed it was the fairest Upazila election so far while denouncing the BNP's claim that it was a festival of rigging and violence. They are professional liars, he said giving the election the best election certificate.
In fact all national dailies yesterday printed stories and photos on how the ruling party men were snatching the ballot boxes or rigging votes and attacking  opposition backed candidates or even rebel intra-party candidates. Media reports said ruling party men couldn't wait till the morning and started stuffing the ballot boxes when it was still dark.
Party cadres had already sealed over 800 ballots by 8:30 am at Purba Nalua Government Primary School polling centre in Comilla's Borura upazila. The report quoted the presiding officer as saying 'some people stormed the polling centre twice at night in between 2:00am and 3:00am. They took away the keys of almirah by holding him hostage and took away the ballot papers.
Another presiding officer at Bagmara Poura Government Primary School polling station alleged that ruling party men had snatched around 1,200 ballot papers between 1:30am and 2:00am in the previous night and stuffed them early on the day.
At a polling center in Khulna, voters were left waiting in long queue while ruling party men stuffed the ballot boxes. A hapless presiding officer looked on.   In fact, the 1st phase of Upazila election had brought spectacular victory to BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami to the ruling party's embarrassment. They won 44 and 12 respectively compared to 33 posts of Chairman to ruling party backed candidates. The opposition success continued through the 2nd phase, when BNP bagged 51 and Jamaat 8 compared to 45 by Awami League backed candidates.
By that time the ruling party then vowed in public not to give any more victory to the opposition and the 3rd phase of the voting saw a reverse picture in which 45 upazilas went to Awami League candidates as against 28 to BNP and 7 to Jamaat. In the latest phase, the ruling party backed candidates have won the largest number of 53 posts of chairman compared to 24 to BNP and 5 to Jamaat.

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