Oikyafront terms polls Farcical, seeks re-election in Bangladesh

TSL News Network

DHAKA, Dec 31: The Jatiya Oikyafront yesterday demanded that the Election Commission immediately scrap the “farcical election” and hold a fresh one under a nonpartisan interim government.

“We reject this so-called result. At the same time, we demand fresh polls under a nonpartisan government,” Oikyafront leader Dr Kamal Hossain said at a press conference at his house in the capital.

Reading out a written statement, the eminent jurist said the news of “vote robbery” came from almost all constituencies.

Responding to a query from a journalist, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said yesterday’s election proved that free and fair polls were not possible under a partisan government. “This also proves that our decision to boycott the parliamentary elections in 2014 was right.” Kamal said the Oikyafront would hold a meeting today to devise its strategy. The alliance’s ongoing movement “to institutionalise democracy” would continue, he added.

Apart from the Oikyafront, the Left Democratic Alliance, comprised of eight left-leaning parties, and the Ganasamhati Andolon rejected the polls and demanded a reelection.

51 BOYCOTT POLLS

As many as 49 BNP and two independent candidates boycotted polls during voting yesterday, bringing allegations of vote rigging, stuffing ballots and forcing polling agents out of centres by the ruling party men. Other allegations include capturing of polling stations by AL men, rigging votes and barring voters from exercising their franchise.

However, the BNP didn’t boycott the polls as a party. Out of the 49 candidates, 22 are Jamaat leaders who ran on BNP’s ticket. In some districts, almost all the opposition candidates boycotted the polls. In Bagerhat, all four BNP nominees abstained from the election.

Eight out of 11 BNP candidates in Mymensingh boycotted the election. In Khulna, five out of six BNP and Oikyafront candidates opted to stay out. Faridpur and Jhenidah saw three out of four BNP nominees boycotting the polls in each of the districts.

Jamaat leader Mia Golam Parwar, who ran on BNP’s ticket in Khulna-5, first announced that he was boycotting the election over “barring voters from entering polling centres, arresting his party men and the returning officer’s inaction”. Around the same time, Shama Obayed boycotted the polls in Faridpur-2 alleging that AL men stuffed ballots in 100 out of 123 polling centres on Saturday night.

“My polling agents went to the polling centres, but they were forced to leave the centres by police and ruling party men,” the BNP nominee told The Daily Star. Shama also said she even didn’t cast her own vote in protest. In Dhaka-1, independent candidate Salma Islam boycotted the polls around noon.

Speaking at a press conference at her house in Nababganj’s Jamarkhola area, she said she stayed out of the election as it was “rigged”.

Andaleeve Rahman Partha, BNP candidate for Dhaka-17, boycotted the polls around 2:00pm citing that some 600 of his polling agents were forced out of the centres and assaulted by AL men.

JAMAAT BOYCOTTS POLLS

Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami in a press statement yesterday said its leaders, who contested the polls with “sheaf of paddy”, boycotted the election. Terming the election “a farce”, it demanded cancellation of the polls. BNP’s Mirza Abbas and his wife Afroza Abbas boycotted the polls in Dhaka-8 and 9 alleging that voters were deprived of casting their votes. The couple also refrained from exercising their franchise.

Speaking at a press conference at his Shahjahanpur home, Abbas said, “Such an election is not needed in the country in which people cannot cast their votes. We are rejecting the election result.” Independent candidate in Kurigram-4 Imran H Sarker, also spokesperson of Ganajagaran Mancha, alleged that AL men were casting fake votes in Chilmari’s Nayarhat and Astamir Char areas.

COMPLAINT LODGED WITH EC

Around noon, a BNP delegation in a written complaint informed the EC that its polling agents were obstructed from entering polling centres in 221 constituencies. “Our polling agents are being intimidated and obstructed from entering voting stations. In some cases, they are being driven away from the polling stations or being arrested,” BNP Joint Secretary General Moazzem Hossain Alal, who led the delegation to the EC, told reporters.

He said they received the information from reliable sources. There were similar complaints from other constituencies as well, but those came from unconfirmed sources, he added. Alal alleged that AL activists were committing irregularities with the help of law enforcers. The BNP submitted the complaint, signed by party National Election Conducting Committee Chairman Nazrul Islam Khan, to the chief election commissioner.

Alal said voters were not being allowed to enter polling stations in many places and women were being asked to vote for AL candidates. The party also accused the AL of stamping ballots the night before the polling day in more than half of the 299 constituencies. “Ballots were being stamped with the help of law enforcement agencies and polling and administration officials,” the BNP said in its complaint.