Tuesday 22nd Jan 2019
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BNP-Led 18-Party Alliance Wins Landslide Victory in City Corporation Elections in Bangladesh.

SK. ENAMUL HOQ analyses the landslide victory of BNP-led 18-party alliance in corporation elections in Bangladesh.


All the four candidates backed by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 18-party alliance won the landslide victory in the mayoral elections in the four city corporations – Sylhet, Barisal, Rajshahi and Khulna – with large margins of votes over their rival candidates supported by the alliance led by ruling Awami League. Ariful Haque Chowdhuary was the first candidate to have been officially declared elected mayor of Sylhet City Corporation by the Returning Officer. As per results available from all the 128 polling centres in the city, Chowdhuary got a total of 107,330 votes while his rival former mayor Badruddin Ahmed Kamran got 72,230 votes. At 12:15 am on Sunday (16 June), Ahsan Habib Kamal was declared elected mayor of Barisal City Corporation amid thunderous applause of his supporters. Kamal bagged 83,751 votes while his rival former mayor Shawkat Hossain Hiron received 66,741 votes.

The BNP-backed candidate Mossadek Hossain Bulbul won over his rival AL-supported candidate Khairuzzaman Liton in Rajshahi as well as BNP’s led alliance candidate Moniruzzaman Moni won over his rival AL’s Talukder Khaleq in Khulna.



Earlier on 15 June, voting took place in all four divisional headquarters in a peaceful manner with a heavy turnout of over 70 per cent voters. Each of the four cities wore a festive look with a carnival-like atmosphere prevailing at many places throughout the day. Heavy contingents of police, RAB and BGB patrolled the four cities to maintain law and order.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina praised BNP for participating in the city corporation elections and held out her hope that the opposition party would also join the forthcoming parliamentary elections expected to be held later this year or early next year in the country.

BNP-backed candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul defeated AL backed candidate Khairuzzaman Liton in mayoral poll in the Rajshahi City Corporation Election. According to the result of 137 polling centres, Bulbul bagged 131,058 votes against AL-backed candidate Liton who received 83,726 votes. The election for the Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) went off peacefully. There were no reports of any untoward incident. The casting of votes at all 137 polling centres under 30 wards was peaceful. The percentage of votes was also satisfactory, said Election Commission (EC) officials in Rajshahi.

The three mayoral contestants in Rajshahi, the Nagorik Committee-backed candidate, former RCC Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Sommilito Nagorik Forum-backed candidate Mosaddeuqe Hossain Bulbul and Independent candidate Habibur Rahman cast their votes at their respective polling centres. Sohel Rana, presiding officer at the Satellite Town High School polling centre, said both HM Khairuzzaman Liton and Mosaddeque Hossain Bulbul cast their votes at the centre in the morning.  After casting his vote, Khairuzzaman Liton said he was happy that polling was being held peacefully.

BNP-backed candidate Ahsan Habib Kamal has been elected the mayor of Barisal City Corporation. Returning officer Md Mujibar Rahman announced the result of all the 100 polling centres of the city corporation where Kamal got 83,751 votes beating his rival AL-backed candidate Shawkat Hossain Hiron, who bagged 66,741 votes. In his instant reaction, Kamal expressed his gratitude to the voters of Barisal City Corporation.

The third Barisal City Corporation (BCC) election was held peacefully on Saturday, with over 70 per cent of votes cast, though it was marked by stray incidents of violence. Returning officer Md. Mujibor Rahman said the election was held in a very peaceful manner and expressed his satisfaction about the conduct of the election. He also said the rate of voting would be around 70 per cent, adding that no major untoward situation occurred.



A youth, identified as Samsul Islam, was arrested with a light gun in the night of Friday (14 June) by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from Polashpur area of the city. He was handed over to Kawnia police station. The sister of a councillor was injured last night when she was attacked by relatives of the rival candidate at Polashpur. Again, local people nabbed one Abdur Rahman from Amtola area with Tk. 500 in his possession, which had been given to him by the agent of a candidate Friday night.

Supporters of rival mayoral candidates clashed with each other at polling centres in the morning. The police charged batons at Kawni and Commercial College centres to bring the situation under control.

Ashraful Kabir, presiding officer of Rupatali Government Primary School centre under Ward No. 24, said he suspended casting of votes from 1:42pm to 2:42pm, after about 50 per cent of ballots were cast, following clashes between two groups of people. Returning officer Mujibor Rahman said he went to the spot and a strike force of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) was sent there for resumption of voting, which started after an hour.

Mojibur Rahman Sarwar, president of the city BNP unit and lawmaker, Ahsan Habib Kamal, the mayoral candidate backed by the 18-Party Alliance, and Ebaiudul Huq Chan, convener of the district BNP unit, went to the spot and said if casting of votes was not peaceful, free and fair then they would call for a mass movement.

BNP national committee member and former lawmaker Abul Hossain Khan was injured by activists of a rival group there. Ahsan Habib Kamal was also injured there. Supporters of candidates backed by the 14-Party and 18-Party alliances attacked each other at Kawnia Girls’ School centre at about 10 am. The police later charged batons and brought the situation under control. At 9:30 am, Jobayer Ebne Eysuf, polling agent of the candidate supported by the 18-Party Alliance, was allegedly manhandled by the outgoing mayor and mayoral candidate backed by the 14-party Alliance, Shawkat Hossain Hiron, at Sagardi Alia Madrasa Polling Booth No. 5.

Nasrin Jahan, assistant presiding officer of Commercial College centre, was removed from duty at about 1 am following allegations of bias. At A Karim Ideal College Centre under Ward No. 6 of the city, women voters staged a demonstration against the deployment of only male law-enforcement personnel at around 11:45 am. After that, 10 female members of the police and Ansar were deployed there.

Mayoral candidate Shawkat Hossain Hiron and others said the election was held in a free, fair and peaceful way. However, Ahsan Habib Kamal and Mahmudul Haque Mamun, other contestants for the post of mayor, levelled allegations about the slow rate of casting of votes as a result of inefficiencies of the election officials and improper arrangements of booths.

Barisal Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Shoyeb Ahmed said they raided the houses of accused persons wanted in connection with different criminal cases without considering their political affiliations. A total of 14 persons were arrested, three illegal arms recovered and more than 98 per cent of all licensed arms had been deposited with the authorities, the police official said. Ebaidul Huq Chan, the chief election agent of the candidate backed by the 18-Party Alliance, said overenthusiastic personnel of law enforcement agencies in the areas of the northern part of the city, like Amanatganj, Saw Road, Gagon Goli and Palashpur Cluster Village, where the majority of his supporters live, sparked panic among the voters and discouraged them. The voters were heard complaining about the voting procedure, as a result of which the process of casting of votes slowed down.

When asked about the overenthusiastic activities of the law enforcement agencies at voting centres in different areas of the city, returning officer Mujibor Rahman said the election was held under an independent EC and steps were taken to ensure a free and fair election. There was no intention to create panic among the real voters except miscreants. Advocate Ahmedul Kabir, Hiron’s chief election agent, said that the environment for a free, fair and peaceful election prevailed from the beginning to the end in the election all over the city.

Khulna BNP-backed candidate Monirujjaman Moni won the mayoral poll. According to the results of 287 centres out of 288, Moni got 181,265 votes beating his rival AL-backed candidate Talukder Abdul Khalek who received 120,058 votes. In his instant reaction he expressed his deep gratitude to the voters for electing him.

The much-talked-about Khulna City Corporation (KCC) polls were held peacefully in Khulna city on Saturday. Two major mayoral candidates, however, made rigging allegations against each other.



The Election Commission put in 288 presiding officers, 1,428 assistant presiding officers and 2,856 polling officers to conduct the polls at 288 centres and 1,428 permanent and 33 temporary polling booths. According to KMP Special Branch deputy commissioner Rasida Begum, more than 9,000 members from different law enforcement agencies were deployed on Saturday.

Besides, 31 mobile teams of the police, BGB, Armed Police Battalion (APBN) and RAB-6 patrolled the city and two police teams kept vigil on the nearby river routes. Also, 30 executive and judicial magistrates were on duty to help law enforcement agencies in maintaining peace. A few vehicles, belonging to different media outlets, law enforcers and poll-observers, plied the streets. Most shops and shopping arcades downed their shutters.

Police, RAB and Ansar battalions were deployed at the polling centres. Heavy security was visible at road crossings and other strategic points of the city. The entire city, particularly the areas adjacent to the polling centres, was decorated and the walls were covered with black and white posters.

AL-led 14-party alliance was severely defeated in the councillor election of the four city corporations. The 14-party alliance lost not only mayoral posts of city corporations but also maximum councillors. Out of total 118 councillors, BNP-led 18-party alliance got 73, AL-led 14-party alliance got 27 and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami got 6, Jatia party of ex-president HM Ershad got 2, and Islami Andolon got 1. Two rival candidates of BNP and AL became victorious in 2 posts. Moreover, 5 more independent candidates became victorious.



Terming the outcome of the mayoral polls as a referendum against the present government, experts feel the anti-incumbency wave, coupled with government crackdown on Hefazat rally and internal rift in the ruling party, were instrumental in the debacle of the ruling party-backed candidates in the elections for the four city corporations. Talking to Radiance Viewsweekly, local government experts, political scientists and analysts said the national political issue dominated the city polls, for which, many popular ruling party candidates had to face defeat.

Local government specialist and executive director of Sujan (Citizens Campaign for Good Governance), Dr Badiul Alam Mazumder, said the mayoral polls have turned into a referendum on the four and half year’s rule of the government. “The ruling party gave these local government polls a partisan colour. Both the ruling party and the opposition unofficially nominated the candidates themselves, and the result shows that the people gave their verdict against the misrule of the government,” he added.

He pointed out that if the elections were fought on the basis of local issues, some ruling party-backed candidates could have won, as they had done a lot of development work as mayors in their respective city corporations. In 2008, he said, the AL had won city polls and, subsequently, won national elections.

Professor Dr Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah of Political Science Department of Dhaka University also felt that the campaign trail in the mayoral polls was gripped by national issues. Dr Kalimullah, who heads the National Election Observation Council (Janipop), said their field-level observation report showed that issues like formation of Ganajagaran Manch Movement and foiling the Hefazat sit-in at Shapla Square had influenced the mayoral polls. It was a do-or-die situation for both Hefazat and Jamaat,  and they were very active in unleashing a fierce and well-organised campaign for the polls, he added. “We have seen that the women activists of Jamaat and Hefazat were engaged in door-to-door campaigns for the BNP-backed candidates.”

Professor Ferdous Hossain of the Political Science Department said the ruling AL-backed candidates’ debacle in all four city corporations was the outcome of the incumbent government’s failure in fulfilling the people’s aspirations.

“Though it is a local government election, it gained the character of general elections. That’s why, people’s verdict went against the ruling party-backed candidates, due to the government’s utter failure,” he said.

He added that the government tried to take a hardline stance against the leaders and activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat, for which, the ruling party-backed candidates faced defeat in Saturday’s elections. He said the leaders and activists of Jamaat and Hefazat voted for BNP-backed candidates, as they had no other choice. That’s why, the opposition-backed candidates won, he added. The DU professor thinks, if there is no dramatic change, the trend of Saturday’s elections will remain unchanged in the next general elections.



Eminent columnist and social activist, Syed Abul Maksud, also felt that the election results in the mayoral polls should be seen as no-confidence of the voters to the present AL-led Alliance government. He added that the opposition should also take lessons from this election, and should give up the culture of raising allegations in advance.

On the other hand, local analysts in the four city corporations felt that internal conflict of the ruling party, coupled with wrong campaigning of its candidates, also contributed to the failure of the ruling party.

In Rajshahi, political scientists and social analysts have identified a number of factors that toppled Nagarik Committee mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, in the election to the Rajshahi City Corporation, held on 15 June. They linked the failure of Liton to his isolation from the public, non-recognition of grassroots workers, and impact of national politics.

According to AL insiders, the grassroots workers who worked relentlessly during the 2008 mayoral elections, to ensure Liton’s win, were highly dissatisfied with his activities. In Barisal, corruption involving ruling party mayoral candidate Hiron, along with national issues, dominated the mayoral polls. The affidavit of Hiron, submitted to the Election Commission, showed that his yearly income had increased by 55 times in the last five years. When asked, Liton could not give any satisfactory answer. In Sylhet, ruling party-backed candidate Kamran’s position was weakened due to his second marriage scandal. Just prior to the election, rumour spread in the city that he had a second wife who stayed in the capital. In Khulna, ruling party-backed candidate Abdul Khaleq, who had never been defeated in any election, also had to bite the dust. He said national issues and lack of unity contributed to his defeat.

[SK. ENAMUL HOQ is a senior journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh]

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