Voting was underway in the Dhaka city election on Saturday morning amid reports of sporadic violence and allegations of driving out BNP agents from polling stations.
Voters in the capital are exercising their franchise to elect mayors and councilors to Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
Balloting began at 8am and will continue till 4pm without any break. Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs are being used in all the polling stations.
Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina cast her vote at Dhaka City College centre on Saturday morning.
Awami League’s DNCC mayoral candidate Atiqul Islam cast his vote at Nawab Habibullah Model School and College in Uttara Model Town area while BNP’s Tabith Awal cast his at Manarat International School in Gulshan-2.
In Dhaka south, AL’s Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh cast his vote at Dhanmondi Government Girls High School centre while his rival, BNP’s Ishraque Hossain, cast his at Shaheed Shahjahan Government Primary School.
More than 5.45 million voters can cast votes at 2,468 polling stations across the city.
One of the key features of this election is the use of EVM which has been met with skepticism and questions.
“This is a very simple and transparent way to cast vote. [There’s] no scope for manipulation,” Bijoy Kumar Barua, 71, told UNB after casting his vote at Faruq Iqbal High School polling centre in the morning.
“I’m so happy to cast my vote using EVM for the first time in a peaceful and festive atmosphere,” said the former ADG of BARD. “I’m sure my wife son had the same experience. They are happy too.”
In the DNCC, 334 candidates are contesting against 73 posts. Six aspirants are running for the mayoral post but AL’s Atiqul Islam and BNP’s Tabith Awal are the leading contestants.
Besides, 251 councillor candidates are running for 54 posts and 77 women for 18 reserved seats.
In the DSCC, 416 candidates are contesting against 101 posts. Seven candidates are vying for the mayor’s office but locals say it will mainly be a contest between ruling party’s Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh and BNP’s Ishraque Hossain.
Besides, 327 councillor candidates are running for 75 posts and 82 women for 25 reserved seats in the DSCC polls.
There were reports of attack on two BNP councillor candidates in the morning. Both Tabith and Ishraque alleged that agents of BNP candidates were being forced out of the polling stations.
AL’s Taposh said the BNP’s allegations were baseless and that he was fully confident about victory.
US Ambassador Earl Miller visited the Rampura Ekramunnesa High School in the morning but did not interact with the media.
Meanwhile, the foreign missions in Dhaka have dropped their local staff from the observer teams after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised questions about their inclusion violating rules.
Meanwhile, blasts were reported the main branch of Monipur High School in Pirerbagh of Mirpur around 7:30am, Ashraf High School around 8am and Uttar Kafrul High School around 7:45am.
The turnout of voters was low in the morning, UNB correspondents reported. Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said the number of voters will increase gradually.
After visiting IIS School and College in Uttara Returning officer of Dhaka North City Corporation Abul Kashem said voter presence will increase later.
CEC Huda cast his vote at IIS School and College polling centre.
Sagufta Chowdhury, who cast vote at the centre, said vote casting system using EVM is easy but not everything is clear.