Electronic voting machines (EVM) will not be used in the third phase of municipal polls scheduled in 62 municipalities across the country on Saturday.
Although the election was supposed to be held in 63 municipalities, the election is no longer needed in Laksam municipality of Cumilla as all the candidates – a mayor, nine councillors and three reserved seat councilors – in that municipality have been elected without contest after their rivals withdrew their candidacies.
Apart from this, two mayors and 16 councillors, as well as six reserved seat councilors, have won unopposed in different municipalities, as either their rivals withdrew their candidacies or were eliminated in the selection process.
With these winners, the total number of candidates is 3,344. Of them, 229 are vying for mayoral posts, 2,360 for councillor posts and 755 for reserved seats.
Meanwhile, tension and anxiety have overwhelmed some candidates, especially independent and opposition party nominated candidates, who are going to take part in the elections on 30 January.
Raising various allegations against the ruling party candidates, they expressed their concern about fair elections.
In Mymensingh's Gauripur municipality, independent, Awami League (AL)-rebel candidate Syed Rafiqul Islam said, "I could not take part in the campaign because of the AL nominee candidate and his people. I am worried about fair elections too."
He also claimed he is campaigning at home in the face of various obstacles.
His allegations were dismissed by AL candidate Shafiqul Islam Hobi who termed them false and baseless.
Meanwhile, expressing concerns over probable vote-rigging, Bangladesh Nationalist Party's (BNP) Ataur Rahman said, "I am getting a lot of response from the general public and will be the winner if a fair vote takes place."
Meanwhile, discussions, showdowns and campaigns are taking place around the two candidates – AL's Habibur Rahman Habib and independent, AL rebel candidate, Md Abdus Chattar – in Mymensingh's Ishwarganj municipality. Both candidates are strong and the election will be tough. Candidates of BNP and other parties are discussed less there.
Unlike in that municipality, the main battle will be held between the boat, with candidate AKM Mezbah Uddin Qayyum for AL, and sheaf of paddy, with candidate Hatem Khan for BNP, in Mymensingh's Bhaluka municipal area.
Lots of excitement exists among the voters in Hakimpur municipality of Dinajpur. A level playing field exists there and a fierce battle is expected between the AL and BNP candidates.
As per the locals, there is no possibility of any violence in this election and so far, there is no allegation of a violation of the code of conduct, of obstructing campaigns or creating any kind of inconsistency.
The opposite happened in Pabna where attacks and vandalism took place in different parts of the municipality and tension spread across the city.
Chases took place between supporters of AL and independent candidates, injuring 10 people. The boat supporters allegedly vandalised several election offices of independent candidates.
A similar incident happened in Barguna municipality. The campaign of independent mayoral candidate Shahadat Hossain came under attack by his rival, leaving at least five people injured.
In Morrelganj municipality of Bagerhat, candidates are raising various allegations – including of beatings, obstruction of campaigning, death threats, counter-attacks, violations of the code of conduct, and threats of occupying centers – at the last moment.
Meanwhile, a case has been filed against AL rebel candidates and supporters, including the wife of a local MP, for allegedly setting fire to an AL candidate's election office in Narail's Kalia municipality. AL candidate Md Wahiduzzaman (Hira) filed the case accusing 65 people on Wednesday.
The fire occurred at around 1am last Saturday at Ghoshpara at Barakalia area of Kalia town.
Voters in different districts, talking to The Business Standard's (TBS) reporters, said they want candidates who will work for them and whom they can easily reach.
The district election officers told TBS that they are committed to creating an environment where everyone can go to polling centres without hindrance.
Election Commission Senior Secretary Md Alamgir said, "Concerned officials are working for a fair election. If any complaint is received, immediate action will be taken."
Finally, he urged everyone to cooperate to ensure a free and fair election.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission has postponed the polls in Pabna's Sujanagar municipality citing border issues just a day before the polls.
Previously, 26 municipalities went to the polls in the first phase of the elections on 28 December, where AL won 16 mayoral posts and BNP won two. In the second phase of the election in 60 municipalities on 16 January, AL won 46 and BNP candidates won four. Independent and other candidates have won the rest. However, most of these independent nominees were AL rebel candidates.
Our district correspondents Bipul Sarkar Sunny, Hossain Shahid, Akramul Islam, and Partho Hassan have contributed to this report.