Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  
Front Page

CCC elections acid test of fairness
EC plans foolproof security

The Election Commission (EC) plans a foolproof security for the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) polls, slated for May 9, which is widely seen as an acid test of how free and fair the next parliamentary election is going to be.

Against the backdrop of a ruptured credibility in Dhaka-10 by-election, the degree of fairness of the CCC polls would dictate the terms for the opposition parties for participating in the next general elections, as they have already voiced urgency for reforming the caretaker government system.

Both the ruling and the opposition camps started full-swing campaigns in the port city before filing their candidatures, as they consider the polls as their last political showdown before the next Jatiya Sangsad (JS) elections as well as a dress rehearsal for that nearing ballot war.

Meanwhile, the Jatiya Party has apparently turned down an appeal of the ruling coalition mayoral candidate, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin, to support him, as it has declared to contest the polls itself.

To win the polls, the four-party coalition intents to cash in on its last parliamentary election scores that saw it win all the JS seats in the CCC area. The main opposition Awami League, on the other hand, plans to utilise Mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury's experience of winning the polls twice as well as what it says is the government's failure to run the state.

Both the candidates are promising the city dwellers to make their city better if they are elected to the office.

The EC is monitoring the situation and giving the necessary directives to the election officials concerned to conduct the polls in a free and fair manner. It is also considering taking unprecedented security measures through the home ministry to ensure a credible election, sources said.

They said the EC will hold a high-powered meeting next month to review the law and order situation and chalk out the security plan for the polls.

The four-party coalition has decided to extend all-out support to its mayoral candidate and asked the local leaders to work for him, sources said.

They said a number of senior coalition leaders are expected to visit Chittagong ahead of the polls to campaign for Mir Nasir.

Nasir has set up his main election office at Nasiman Bhaban and formed a number of cells and committees to monitor and conduct the election campaign in a planned way.

The components of the coalition however are squabbling over candidature for the ward commissioners' posts.

"If the bargaining is settled peacefully then the coalition will be in a positive condition to face the candidate of the opposition combine," said a local BNP lawmaker wishing anonymity.

Besides, the internal feud in the local BNP will be a major problem for the coalition candidate, though the party has initiated steps to resolve the crisis, he added.

A body named United Citizens' Committee has been formed to drum up popular support for Mohiuddin, the Awami League-backed mayoral candidate, twice elected as CCC mayor.

Mohiuddin also plans to set up a number of committees to keep watch on the polling centres to thwart any bid to rig the election.

Party sources said frontline AL leaders will visit the port city to canvass for their candidate.

"We don't want to be defeated in this poll, as it will be the last showdown before the next parliamentary elections," a senior AL leader said.

The party will finalise its election plan in consultation with Mohiuddin, attaching due importance to his ideas, as he had contested and won the last two CCC polls.

The AL also has formed a sub-committee to monitor the election. The sub-committee headed by AL Presidium Member Suranjit Sengupta will visit Chittagong on March 28 to examine the pre-polls scenario. "We will [then] make a report on what should be done," Sengupta told The Daily Star yesterday.

He criticised the ruling coalition candidate for not resigning from the cabinet before participating in the local government election, alleging it was from an ill motive to influence the election by using the state machinery.

The EC next month will hold a meeting with the law enforcement agencies to review the law and order situation. It will also ask the government to deploy army personnel to help conduct a free and fair election.

The security plan will be finalised just before the election day, taking into account the prevailing situation, EC sources said.

The home ministry with the help of local police administration will identify the vulnerable polling stations and take appropriate security measures in line with the EC's recommendations, sources at the ministry said.

"We'll do every thing in our power to hold the election in a free and fair manner," Election Commissioner AK Mohammad Ali told The Daily Star.

Officials at the EC Secretariat said the budget of the polls will exceed Tk 50 lakh, of which a major portion will be allocated to maintain law and order at around 500 polling centres.

The city corporation has over 11.40 lakh voters.