Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rajshahi City Polls: Violation of code of conduct alleged

 
Mayoral and councillorship hopefuls in Rajshahi City Corporation elections yesterday at a meeting with local administration raised allegations of gross code of conduct violations.

Campaigning under the banners of political parties, spending of black money and intimidation by hired thugs are widespread, claimed a number of contestants.

The meeting, held at Rajshahi District Council auditorium, was organised by returning officer and regional deputy election commissioner of Rajshahi.

Honest, educated and competent candidates are at a disadvantage due to the authorities' indifference toward the violations of the code of conduct, said the speakers.

Bribing prospective voters and intimidation and attacks targeted at opponents by some of the candidates will foil the government's effort for holding an election free from violence, corruptionists and black money holders, they cautioned.

Out of 15 candidates running for the mayoral post of the city, 12 were present at the meeting. The three candidates who did not show up are AHM Khairuzzaman Liton of Awami League (AL) Rajshahi city unit, Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul of BNP and Akhtaruzzaman Bablu, president of Bikalpadhara Bangladesh Rajshahi city unit.

Around 600 councillor candidates attended the meeting.

Dissident candidates from political parties also spoke against their parties for various violations of the code of conduct.

A number of the speakers said instead of waiting on receiving formal complaints about any sort of rules violations, the government should ask its intelligence agencies to increase vigilance over different campaigns.

Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner Hafijur Rahman Bhuiyan, Rajshahi Deputy Election Commissioner Sayed Muhammad Musa and the commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police were present at the meeting among others.

Mayoral candidate and Rajshahi city AL President Masudul Haque Dulu said the AL-led 14-party alliance quite openly endorsed Fazle Hossain Badsha, but the AL is now backing AHM Khairuzzaman Liton.

"Isn't this political campaigning? Doesn't this violate electoral rules? If yes, the authorities are being two-faced as they had been trumpeting the rules on one hand, while on the other, they aren't taking any action against the violators," Dulu said.

Another mayor aspirant Durul Huda, president of Jatiya Party city unit, said, "Major parties are openly endorsing their candidates. Let us know if it's legal, then we'll also arrange political support… Why would we lag behind?"

Progressive Development Party's Raihanur Rahman said almost all candidates are secretly hiring workers by huge numbers to do their campaign work.

Acting mayor Rejaunnabi Dudu alleged that many candidates are spending black money to engage hired thugs and run smear campaign against their opponents.

Abu Bakar Siddik, a councillor hopeful at ward 10, said many public servants are also taking part in campaign work in exchange for money. "Hired goons of the present councillors who are also contesting the polls are threatening to kill us," he added.

Abul Kalam Azad, contesting councillorship post at ward 14, said many candidates are campaigning at places of worship including mosques.

Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner Hafijur Rahman Bhuiyan said to assist the authorities take swift action, everyone, if necessary withholding their identity, should provide the authorities with specific information on rules violations.

Deputy Election Commissioner Sayed Muhammad Musa said starting Monday (yesterday), the authorities would take tough action against violators of the code of conduct.

Rejecting Musa's comment, a few candidates said they also want action against all the violations that have been committed so far.

"We so far warned candidates for violation of rules. But from now on, we will inform the Election Commission in Dhaka [of any allegation] so it can initiate an investigation and cancel candidacy of the offender," Musa said.

Musa also assured the candidates of justice and told them that the commission has instructed them to take action against those who are using resources of political parties in their election campaigns.
 

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