Violence mars Bangladesh local body polls, 12 killed

At least 12 people, including two candidates and two children, were killed and over 200 injured in violence during Bangladesh’s fifth phase of voting in the local body polls which have turned out to be the deadliest so far, media reports said on Sunday.

Voting in the elections of union parishads (councils), being held on party lines for the first time under an amended system, was held in 717 unions under 45 districts on Saturday amid violence and allegations of rigging and other malpractices.

Twelve deaths were reported from Jamalpur, Chittagong, Noakhali, Comilla, Panchagarh and Narayanganj during the polls that will elect chairmen and councillors for the lowest tier of local government system, Daily Star reported.

The latest deaths bring to over 110 the total number of people who have died in election-related violence in the three and a half months since the announcement of the election schedule. The previous phases of polls had claimed 101 lives and the highest number of people killed in election-day violence was 10, according to media reports.

Two candidates — Kamal Uddin, BNP rebel chairman aspirant at Comilla’s Titas, and Mohd Yasin, who was vying for the post of member at Chittagong’s Karnaphuli — were stabbed to death in separate clashes.

Jamalpur witnessed the worst violence in which at least four people, including two children, were killed. They died after police opened fire to put an end to a clash between supporters of two candidates for the chairman’s post.

The remaining casualties were reported from southeastern Noakhali district. More than 200 people were also injured, many of them shot, as the supporters of chairmen and member candidates engaged in fierce clashes.

District police chief Mohammad Nizamuddin said, “Police resorted to firing to bring the situation under control”.

The supporters of candidates captured polling stations and stuffed ballot boxes, like in the previous four phases, the report said.

Voting in 120 centres was called off as law and order went out of control, according to the election commission.

Election commissioner

Mohammad Abu Hafiz
admitted the rising trend of violence. “This time it’s more because the polls are on party lines and renegades are challenging regular party aspirants,” he said.

The local government polls were earlier held as non-party elections where the candidates used to appear as independent candidates though with unofficial nominations from major political parties. But in October, Bangladesh amended a century-old system of electing local government institutions on non-partisan basis, allowing political parties to directly take part in these polls like national elections.

Jamalpur deputy commissioner Mohd Shahabuddin Khan said a committee had been formed with additional district magistrate Mohd Alamgir as its head to probe the incident.

Most of the casualties were the results of clashes between supporters of ruling Awami League candidates and party rebels in around 60 unions.