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Commentary

There is unanimity on the failure of the Election Commission: UN and US express concern

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Editorial Desk :
There is unanimity among local election observers that the Election Commission (EC) has failed to be effective. US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat has uttered disappointment over the reported irregularities and intimidation in Khulna City Corporation election and called for transparent investigation saying this is very disappointing.
The UN has also expressed concern over the election irregularities and has asked the government to make sure elections in Bangladesh to be free and fair.
 The local election observers also almost unanimously blamed that the EC has failed to be effective to ensure free election in the face intimidation and ballot stuffing. The opposition had to come to the High Court Division for stopping arrests by police of the supporters of BNP candidate Nazrul Islam Manju for creating panic and intimidation. There are other acts of the EC showing bias in favour of the government supported candidate Talukder Abdul Khalek. BBC Bangla Service report also highlighted some such irregularities from the spot during the election.        
What happened in Khulna City Corporation (KCC) election held on Tuesday was nothing surprising, rather expecting as the bureaucrats, law enforcing agencies, poll agents, and the Election Commission (EC) itself worked harmoniously to snatch the rights of the citizen to elect their representatives. Like the January 5 national election, as per news media, the KCC poll was marked by open ballot stuffing, vote rigging, attack on opposition voters, pre-casting of votes by ruling party men and inaction of police. Magura by-election of 1994 under the then ruling BNP which made the election under non-party caretaker government inevitable had effectively been trashed by Awami League to make election unfair and manufactured. After trashing caretaker government provision in 2011 and setting up the EC with pro-party men, no polls -- be the general election or local government elections, were free, fair and credible that ultimately made election, as a popular mode of forming the government, incredible and controversial to citizens.
 Amid allegations of widespread rigging, ballot stuffing, and muscle flexing by ruling Awami League activists, the AL candidate Talukder Abdul Khalek is unofficially elected as the mayor. Results from all the 286 polling centres show AL candidate got 174,851 votes while BNP-backed candidate bagged 1,09,251 votes. The EC suspended polling in three centres over allegations of irregularities while a total of 6565 votes were scrapped. Later in the evening, the BNP mayoral candidate demanded fresh votes at over 100 centres allegedly marred by stuffing and other irregularities. He said the voting was far from being free and fair as expected by the people of Khulna city.
 Casting his vote at Rahima Primary School centre about 9:00am, he told reporters that his agents were driven out from centres and the agents could not enter many polling centres amid obstruction by the Awami League activists. Without settling the allegations that the BNP-backed candidate's polling agents were driven away by ruling party men the EC officials favored the winning candidate. The satisfaction coined by the EC secretariat in this situation saying election was "excellent" is a breach of election code. News media and television channels broadcasted that the agents of Manju were missing at most of the polling centres while ballot book saw half-finished within 30 minutes of voting. Many voters went to cast their vote in the centers but were told by polling officials that their votes were already casted, an explicit sign of vote rigging.
It has been proved again that the government is not in a position to allow election to be free and fair at any level not to speak national level election. This is a dangerous position for any hope of peaceful change.
We have no political leaders for a peaceful political solution of the crisis. We urge the United Nations and others to help our people to overcome the terrible power struggle for corruption and plundering.

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