Monday, December 31, 2018

Election rigging - the polling agents debacle

On the eve of the election, this blog reported on the the arrest of seven polling agents from one constituency, raising the possibility that preventing polling agents from entering polling stations could become a more systematic strategy of the Awami League government on the subsequent day.

And this is exactly what has happened. The BNP claim that they had reports of polling agents being refused access in 221 constituencies.

Having polling agents within polling stations is crucial to prevent all kinds of shenanigans happen within the centres including stuffing of ballot boxes, and improper counting of votes - which is of course why the Awami League focused their efforts in stopping opposition polling agents from entering centres.

The Dhaka Tribune had a good story on this. It stated that:
The Dhaka Tribune independently observed nearly 200 polling centres across the capital on Sunday, and hardly found any polling agents of the BNP and Oikya Front.
The paper also reported on pro-Awami league people pretending to be opposition polling agents. The article is worth reading in full

The widely respected Zonayed Saki, chief coordinator of a small left wing party, the Ganosamhati Andolon, boycotted the elections in the three constituencies - one in Dhaka, Pabna and Chittagong - in which he and two other party candidates were contesting. According to him, their "poling agents were kicked out of polling stations and assaulted in almost every centre of Dhaka-12 constituency as well as in Chattogram and Pabna".

It appears that many formal complaints have been made about this to the Election Commission (which will no doubt ignore them). The lawyer, Assaduzzaman, who was standing in Jhenaidah sent this complaint which not only deals with the polling agent issue but other conscerns about stuffing of ballot boxes and voter intimidation.
Returning officer and Deputy Commissioner
Sub. Prayer for Cancellation of Election due to massive vote rigging in the Constituency No.81- Jhenaidah-1 (Shailkupa) 
Dear Sir,
With a heavy heart and deepest Concern, I would like to Lodge this Complain to you and pray for cancellation of the election due to massive vote rigging on 30, December, 2018 in the Constituency No.81- Jhenaidah-1 (Shailkupa) in which I happened to be a candidate having been nominated by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The basis of my complain and prayer are comprehensively stated in the following manner: 
1. On 30, December, 2018 all my Polling Agents in 117 polling centers appeared before the respective presiding officers to submit their identification card duly authorized and issued by me. In some of the centers, they could submit it but in many centers they could not submit it under duress by the cadres of the Bangladesh Awami league candidate and that too happened in presence of the presiding officers and members of the assigned law enforcement agencies. It is to be noted that in this election the Presiding officers and Polling officers are commonly known in the locality as the member of Awami league oriented families

2. By 11 am of 30 December 2018, all my Polling Agents have been forced to go outside the polling centers under duress by the Awami league candidate’s agents and their fellow cadres encircled in the respective polling centers. That too happened in presence of the presiding officers and the member of the law enforcement agencies assigned therein who were either kept silent or had abetted their activities. The Awami league candidate’s cadres had stamped on the ballot papers in the open day light after ousting our Agents which have been seen by many people. Even some persons who died before 30 December have been seen to have casted their votes . These were the scenario of all the polling stations. 
3. Immediately, I informed some of the incidents to the Assistant Returning Officer, Shailkupa over telephone but of no result. BNP supporters including my polling agents from all the centres had informed me over telephone that Awami League Candidate’s cadres had been resisting the voters on their way to polling centers, specially those who they believed to have BNP orientation. Motiur Rahman Bishwas of Baroipara has been caused leg broken injury and Md. Motiur Rahman Motin of Shailkupa Pourashova area has been caused grievous hurt with serious bleeding injuries while they were on their way back to Polling centres. 
4. If any effective and fair due diligence is done, you will be posted with the facts that from 2 pm onwards of 29 December 2018, the Awamileague Candidate’s cadres had threatened from door to door of BNP supporters with dire consequences asking them not to go to polling centres and they have caused serious panic in the vicinity all over the Constituency and it continued the whole night. They also used abusive languages upon the female members of some of the BNP leaders and supporters. This horrific situation can never be said to be an atmosphere for holdin a free and fair election. 
5. You may recall from your record that as many as 52 major incidents had been reported to you in writing over the last two weeks which were duly received by your office but no action had ever been taken in reference to those. Had there been any action taken against the perpetrators of those incidents, I strongly believe that the goons could have been controlled effectively and the election rigging could be prevented. Your failure to do the needful has not only given them a Frankenstein, but has also established your helplessness to conduct a free and fair election under a political government. 
6. Please be noted that in the given facts and circumstances, this complaint could not be lodged before the respective presiding officers due to our no confidence upon them as their purported and biased inactions have fuelled the vote rigging. In addition to that , our Agents are apprehending that their life will be endanger if they go to submit it to the Presiding officers. Hence, making complain to the returning officers lacks effective and efficacious remedy. 
7. In the circumstances, had there been a free and fair election, not only me but also the people of my Constituency strongly believe that I would be elected in a landslide victory. But the Awamileague Candidate has snatched my victory upon rigging the votes in the aforesaid manners. 
Wherefore, it is most humbly prayed that your honor would graciously be pleased to cancel the 11 Parliament Election purportedly held on 30 December 2018 so far it relates to Constituency No. 81-Jhenidah-1(Shailkupa) and take other appropriate legal actions against the perpetrators and I will be highly obliged for that 
Thanking you 
yours sincerely,

Md. Asaduzzaman
Candidate,Nominated by BNP
Constituency No.81-Jhenaidha-1 (Shailkupa)

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