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Dhaka, Ctg city polls on April 28

22Putting an end to a long spell of speculation over polls to the bifurcated Dhaka City Corporations, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad on Wednesday announced the schedule of elections to the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Chittagong City Corporation (CCC).
Elections for all three corporations will be held on April 28.
As per the EC’s schedule, the last date for submitting nominations is March 29. The nominations of candidates will be scrutinised on April 1 and 2, and nominations can be withdrawn before April 9, the CEC said while announcing the schedule for the polls of the three city corporations at a press briefing at the EC secretariat here yesterday.
Symbols to the mayoral candidates and councillor aspirants will be distributed on April 10, the CEC said.
Elections for the Dhaka City Corporation were last held twelve years ago. Clearance for polls this time around came after the signing of an LGRD Ministry proposal on February 23 regarding the elections to the bifurcated Dhaka City Corporation. The proposal also directed authorities to immediately organise city elections for Chittagong as well.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had on December 9 last year hinted at holding elections to both the city corporations in Dhaka. The move was to ensure accountability at the two civic bodies that provide services to one billion residents of the capital.
On February 24 this year, the LGRD ministry began the process of resolving the existing legal hurdles relating to the delimitation of disputed wards and sent a letter to the EC Secretariat requesting it to take necessary steps for holding elections to the divided Dhaka city corporations.
In the letter, the ministry said that they have issued a gazette notification on delimitation of the wards 55, 56 and 57 of the DSCC, and that now there is no barrier to holding polls to the DNCC and DSCC.
Though elections to both the Dhaka city corporations were scheduled for May 24, 2012, complexities related to delimitation and preparation of the voters’ list led to the High Court (HC) issuing a three-month stay order on the process.
On May 13, 2013, the HC cleared the way to hold the polls, but the local government division of the LGRD ministry issued a gazette notification expanding the boundary of Dhaka City Corporation (South). The previous DCC was bifurcated into two—South (DSCC) and North (DNCC)—on November 30, 2011, through the passage of a bill that amended the 2009 Local Government Act.
Despite the government having appointed two administrators for a six-month tenure since March 2011 to ensure service to city residents, civic facilities have not being properly provided.
The last city Mayor, Sadeque Hossain Khoka, was elected in 2002 and continued till 2011, although his term had expired in 2007. Several attempts by the previous election commission led by Shamsul Huda to hold DCC polls also failed.
Owing to the absence of elected civic fathers in both the DCCs, tax-paying citizens are being deprived of civic services and are faced with poor waste management, shoddy drainage system, poor mosquito control, poor maintenance of city roads and street lights, among several other similar problems.
Elections to the Chittagong city corporation, on the other hand, were held on June 17, 2010. As per law, there was a legal binding to hold CCC polls by July.
“We have announced the schedule today. Now, the persons who have hanged the posters seeking votes will remove them within 48 hours. Otherwise, legal action would be taken against them if directives are not followed.” said CEC Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad.
Despite rules barring election campaign before the announcement of polls, several individuals hopeful of getting into the fray for the post of mayor and councillor have already started campaigning across Dhaka city through posters and billboards even before the announcement of the schedule. One such individual, Hazi Selim, an independent lawmaker from Dhaka-7, and also a mayoral aspirant to the DSCC, told The Independent that he would follow the directives of the EC and remove the posters and billboards. “Hazi Selim believes in work, not in word,” he added. Another mayoral aspirant to the DSCC also said that they would follow suit.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of EC Mihir Sarwar Morshed and Shah Alam have been appointed as the returning officers of DSCC and DNCC respectively. Abdul Baten will be the regional returning officer of CCC. According to the EC, the total voters of the DNCC is 23,98,432 under 36 wards. Of them, 12,27,571 male and 11,21,742 female voters. On the other hand, DSCC has 18,90,951 voters under 57 wards. Of them, 10,9,70 are male and 8,61,293 are female. According to Mihir, 2,100 polling centres are required for 42,89,383 voters in both the city corporations.
Abdul Baten, the Returning Officer for CCC polls, said that they needed over one thousand vote centres for 18,22,892 voters under 41 wards. Of them, 9,44,563 voters are male and 8,78,329 female.
The EC’s announcement of the schedule comes as the BNP-led 20-party Alliance continues its non-stop transport blockade and intermittent hartal nationwide. BNP policymakers have said that they do not accord the same degree of importance to the local body polls as they do to the prevailing political impasse over holding an inclusive parliamentary election under a non-partisan government.
Speaking to The Independent, BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said that the party was more worried about the ongoing movement than the DCC polls. “As per my knowledge, there has been no discussion or decision on our participation in the local body polls,” he said, adding that the disappearance of party Joint Secretary General Salahuddin Ahmed has added a new dimension to the movement.
Another standing committee member Lt Gen (Retd) Mahbubur Rahman said that the nation must overcome the democratic and political crisis faced by them. “Priority must be given to national election not to local body polls,” he added. In reply to a question, he said that the government is holding the local body polls only to divert the attention of the people from the ongoing movement.
Meanwhile, the ruling Awami League and Jatiya Party have already announced their candidates for the DCC elections before the announcement of the polls schedule. On February 26, PM Sheikh Hasina formally announced the names of Sayeed Khokan, son of late mayor Mohammad Hanif, for DSCC and Annisul Huq, former FBCCI president, for DNCC elections.
On March 8, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad announced its party’s mayoral candidates. The party’s northern Dhaka unit General Secretary Bahauddin Babul will run the race in the Dhaka North City Corporation, while Presidium Member Saifuddin Ahmed Milon will be in fray for the Dhaka South City Corporation.
Other than these candidates, lawmaker Hazi Selim announced his candidature for the mayoral post for DSCC. Similarly, Awami League lawmaker Kamal Majumder, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) leader Abdullah Al-Kafi Ratan and Jatiya Party leader Bahauddin Ahmed Babul are also vying for the mayoral position at DNCC.
However, it is still uncertain whether Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, currently in police custody, will be able to participate in the polls as a mayoral candidate in DNCC. He is facing two lawsuits including sedition and “trying to instigate revolt in the armed forces”.
Meanwhile, security at the Chittagong Regional election office has been tightened since 6 pm yesterday after the schedule of CCC polls were declared, said Abdul Jalil Mandal, Commissioner of Chittagong Metropolitan Police. This security measure has been taken to avoid any attempts of sabotage centering on the local EC office, said AKM Shahidur Rahman, Additional Police Commissioner, Chittagong Metropolitan Police.
With the declaration of the schedule, all election-related material will now be stored at the local EC office. Security has been tightened in view of this aspect, said Rahman, adding that the security of the whole city will also boost in the process.