REF: Long queues were seen in the early hours of voting in Chittagong, but the presence of voters in the centres began thin out following booth capture by pro-government activists and polls rigging.
Sporadic clashes between supporters of councillor aspirants broke out at several wards around noon.Ruling Awami League-backed candidates injured three journalists in the attack.Polling agents of BNP-backed mayor candidate M Manjur Alam were at the centres in the morning but were not seen afterwards.
bdnews24.com correspondents in the port city visited 20 centres on Tuesday.
They said fair polls, too, were held in some of the centres.
BNP-backed Alam, who was fighting with ‘orange’ symbol, announced his boycott of the polls around 11:30am, alleging the capture of poll centres, assault of his supporters and snatching of ballot papers.
His main rival Awami League-endorsed AJM Nasir Uddin fought with the symbol ‘elephant’.
Supporters of candidates for general reserved councillor posts were also seen freely stamping ballot papers in some centres. Stamped ballot papers were seen lying around in other centres.
In some centres, stamped ballot papers were in excess of the number of voters.
In the space provided in the ballot papers for voters to put the rectangular seal to indicate their choice of candidates, round seals of the presiding officers were found stamped on some of the ballot papers.
The voters who failed to enter the centres after being barred allegedly by police and pro-government activists vented their frustration on journalists.
One of them outside the Fateyabad College centre asked, “Why have you come? Everything is finished. Is there any need of journalists now?”
BNP’s port city unit chief Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury alleged pro-government activists captured a centre and stamped on the ‘elephant’ symbol in presence of ruling party MP MA Latif.
Later, at a press conference where the party announced the boycott, Chowdhury alleged government supporters captured 80 percent centres.
Police remained silent, watching the irregularities. They said they were only ensuring the security of the poll officials.
Handmade bombs were exploded at one voting centre.
Polling centres at the BCIR Laboratory High School and Oli Ahmed Government Primary School were captured by supporters of Awami League-endorsed Nasir soon after voting started at 8am.
bdnews24.com Correspondent Mitoon Choudhury found ballot papers, stamped on Nasir’s Elephant symbol, scattered on the ground.
Similar scenes could be seen at the voting centres at Fateyabad City Corporation Girls’ High School and Fateyabad College between 10:45am and 11:15am.
A few handmade bombs were exploded at the BCIR Laboratory School centre around 7:30am, said Presiding Officer Md Abul Hashem.
He said several ballot papers were snatched from two booths and some of them were returned, but only after they were stamped on Elephant.
Around 10am, Magistrate Nure Alam Bhuiyan visited the centre and told reporters that the presiding officer ‘did not complain’ of any untoward incident.
Some 1,500 votes out of the 2,510 at Oli Ahmed Primary School centre were cast within two hours after the balloting started, said Presiding Officer Fazlul Quader.
By 10:30am, the centre was empty.
The bdnews24.com Correspondent saw a procession of supporters of ‘elephant’ symbol while entering the centre.
“We could not cast our vote. Armed people captured the centre since morning and were stamping ballots on Elephant symbol,” said local resident SM Ismali Babu.
Chittagong District’s Additional Superintendent of Police Mostafizur Rahman told reporters: “We are seeing the same thing that you are seeing. Nothing unpleasant happened here. No one complained.”
Asked why there were no voters at 10:30am, he replied: “Those manning that centre can answer that.”
Security forces at the Fateyabad City Corporation Girls’ High School apparently sprang into action as soon as journalists reached there on receiving complaints of rigging.
Several ballot papers, stamped on ‘elephant’ symbol, were found scattered at the polling station.
Elephant-symbol supporters at Fateybad College centre pounced on journalists when they tried to enter there around 11:15am.
Voters were lined up in queue outside the centre. But they were not allowed to go in. Police took no action against those who were stopping the voters from going in.