Against the backdrop of poll violence, attacks and irregularities in two phases of recent municipality elections, the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) polls on Wednesday will be a litmus test for the current Election Commission (EC).
On the eve of the polls, the EC Tuesday, however, said it has completed all preparations, and claimed the EC has ensured the level-playing field for all candidates.
However, casting doubt on fair polls, BNP on Tuesday said police so far arrested their 56 polling agents.
Seven candidates including the Awami League and BNP are vying for the mayoral office on party lines while the ballot will be cast through electronic voting machine EVM.
Despite the EC's claim of a level playing field, BNP mayoral candidate in the CCC polls Shahadat Hossen said the administration's attitude toward the candidates is "partial".
Citing the arrest of the polling agents just before the election day, he said BNP has requested the EC to free the agents since they are a part of the voting. "If the commission cannot do that, it should then step down acknowledging the failure," he added.
BNP said more than 1,00 BNP men were arrested in the last one week while another 1,000 individuals have been accused in more than 100 cases.
In the CCC polls, more than 19 lakh voters are entitled to cast votes using electronic voting machines to elect their mayor and councillors. The voting will continue from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm without any break at 40 wards of the total 41.
Voting at ward no 31 has been postponed to 28 February due to the death of a councillor candidate.
Discarding the BNP mayor candidate's complaint on "arrest spree", Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) Commissioner Saleh Mohammad Tavir said they did not arrest anyone centring the elections.
"Those who were arrested already had police cases and arrest warrants against them," he noted.
Saleh Mohammad Tavir said, "Police might have turned up at their [BNP men's] residences to verify the criminal list we have. This does not mean cops are arresting them in fake cases."
The CMP boss said they have been treating all the candidates the same so that no untoward incident took place in the last couple of days. "Except for an incident in ward 28, the port city so far did not witness the violence which commonly takes place in local elections," he added.
Level playing field ensured: EC
The EC said a level-playing field for CCC candidates has been ensured.
"Many parties are contesting in the polls. The Election Commission's responsibility is to create a level playing field for all so that the voters can come to the polling stations and cast the ballots without any fear," EC Senior Secretary Mohammad Alamgir told a press briefing in EC Bhaban in Dhaka's Agargaon Tuesday.
"The law enforcers are ensuring it," he added.
EC Senior Secretary Mohammad Alamgir said around 10,000 members of different law enforcing agencies will work to ensure a peaceful voting environment. Besides, 40 executive and 20 judicial magistrates will be there for ensuring law and order centring the voting.
"On top of this, we have taken extra measures for risky centres," stated Alamgir, hoping the polls would be peaceful. He urged the voters to maintain virus safety measures properly while casting their ballots.
CMP flags 417 centres
Police said they have taken all-out preparation to avert any untoward incident centring the elections. The CMP has marked 417 centres of the total 735 polling stations as important or risky, and taken up special security measures for them.
There will be 8,000 police personnel deployed on the voting day alongside with 25 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) men.
The risky or important centres will have six cops and 12 Ansar personnel while a general polling station will have four policemen and 12 Ansar members.
On top of this, there will be police patrols, plainclothes and CMP detectives deployed. The bomb disposal unit, counter-terrorism and SWAT members will also be ready as the striking force.
The CMP commissioner said they have estimated the risks factors and have taken preparation as accordingly.