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UZ polls see lowest ever turnout

Published : 21 May 2024 10:34 PM

The lowest-ever turnout of voters amid sporadic clashes and irregularities at different centres marked the second phase of Upazila Parishad polls on Tuesday. 

Several dozens of people, including some journalists, were injured during the clashes that erupted after the supporters of chairman hopefuls attempted to occupy polling centres, stamping ballots and other sorts of irregularities.

Voting for 156 upazilas started at 8:00am and continued till 4:0pm without any break.

After the polls, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal told reporters that the turnout of voters might be over 30 per cent. 

“The presence of voters may be over 30 per cent. You will get the correct piece of information tomorrow,” he said, adding that the administration was very active to hold the polls in a credible manner.

The UZ poll is considered as the second highest important polls after the national elections. About 41 percent of voters exercised their rights of franchise in the recently held 12th parliamentary polls, won by the Awami League following the boycott by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Record shows that the average voter turnout for the first phase of the sixth edition of Upazila Parishad elections was 36.1 percent.

According to the EC statistics, the third edition of the UZ polls, held in 2009, saw a 67.69 percent turnout while the turnout dropped to 61 per cent in the fourth edition of the UZ polls held in 2014. 

The turnout of voters was about 41 per cent in the fifth edition of UZ polls held in 2019. 

To draw the voters to the polling centres, ruling Awami League decided not to field any candidate with its electoral symbol Boat. 

Even, the top brass of the AL directed the party lawmakers and ministers not to field their offspring and kin to vie the UZ race.

Defying the directives of the top brass, a large number of MPs and ministers fielded candidates and worked in their areas to ensure their win.  

Before the sixth edition of the UZ polls, the AL had also run campaigns across the country aiming at drawing the voters to the polling centres.

But, the attempt, somehow, does not work properly, resulting in the poorest casting of votes in the history of the UZ polls.

After the first phase of UZ polls, the CEC said that “Voters did not turn up to the polling centres as they were busy with harvesting paddy.” 

In the second phase polls, some 1,824 candidates, including 603 chairman contenders were in the electoral race in the 156 upazila parishads, against a total of 468 posts –-chairman post, vice chairman and women vice chairman posts in each upazila.

More than 3.52 crore voters – 1,79,05,464 males, 1,72,99,047 females and 237 transgender persons – were registered under 13,016 polling stations in the 156  upazilas, according to the fact sheet provided by the Election Commission.

During the second phase polls, incidents of violence, chasing counter chasing and intimidation of voters were reported. 

At least seven people were injured during a clash between the supporters of two chairman aspirants at a centre of Durgapur Upazila in Rajshahi while an assisting presiding officer was withdrawn for seeking votes for a chairman candidate in Deviganj of Panchagarh.

Locals said that the clash ensued as the supporters of horse and motorcycle symbols were trying to occupy Gopalpur High School centre.

Additional superintendent of police Rofiqul Islam told reporters that the clash erupted just before the beginning of the voting. 

Apart from this, another incident took place at Pananagar Dimukhi High School centre of the same upazila, leaving at least one individual injured. 

Meanwhile, assistant presiding officer Dhirendra Nath was withdrawn from duty from Sukatu High School centre of Deviganj Upazila for seeking votes for a chairman hopeful.

Deviganj Government College teacher Rafiqul Islam, who was the presiding officer of the centre, told reporters that Dhirendra Nath was relieved from duty for seeking votes in favour of a chairman candidate. 

Over the acts of violence, the CEC said they heard that some journalists were injured during the clashes. 

“Journalists became victims when they went to photograph acts of irregularities,” he said.

The CEC said they received information that some 33 people were injured during the clashes. Of them, the condition of two people was very serious, he said. 

Lauding the role of the law enforcement agencies, he said the law enforcement agencies nabbed some 25 people on charge of various irregularities while mobile courts sentenced 10 people for their attempt to influence the polls.