Tension between ruling Awami League candidates and its rebels was the catalyst for violence and arson in recent municipal elections.
Though candidates from the opposition BNP were mostly absent or inactive, these polls witnessed more violence than ever.
Over the last week, vehicles of law enforcers were vandalised and set ablaze in Gaibandha, a councillor candidate was stabbed to death in Siarjganj of Pabna just after he had been declared winner, and two others were killed in Jhenaidah.
Another was shot dead on 12 January in a clash between two factions of the Awami League in a campaign trail ahead of Chattogram City Corporation elections.
Election Commission and ruling party sources said at least 16 rebel candidates had run the race in the second phase municipality elections to 60 seats.
Some unwanted incidents also took place because of conflicts over local leaderships between incumbent lawmakers and upazila chairmen.
"The BNP and other opposition parties are not active much in the race. Ruling party nominees and rebel candidates are the ones confronting each other like members of opposition parties," said a police officer from the Rajshahi range, requesting anonymity.
In many municipalities, Awami League leaders and activists were divided into two groups – one supporting the AL nominee while another favouring the rebel, said another police official who also did not want to be named.
"That might catch the law enforcement agencies off guard when it came to taking strict actions," he said.
In the first phase of the municipal elections on 28 December, at least 10 rebel candidates contested.
Gaibandha Superintendent of Police Muhammad Towhidul Islam told The Business Standard that initially the polls were peaceful. Suddenly, rumours broke out about ballot boxes being looted when the vote counting was going on. That instigated arson attacks and vandalism.
"We have arrested five of the accused. They are not from any candidate's loyal groups. They were trying to spread rumours over the election and wanted to create an anarchic situation in the area," Towhidul said.
According to local sources, Anwarul Sarwar Shahib, a rebel candidate, was made an accused along with 40 others in different cases.
Local AL leader and councillor candidate Liakat Hossain alias Boltu had been stabbed to death in Shoilokupa municipality of Jhenaidah. The police are yet to find out who killed him.
Shoilakupa circle assistant superintendent of police, Ariful Islam said police still did not know whether the murder was linked to the polls.
Sirajganj district Superintendent of Police Hasibur Rahman Shamim refused to make any comment on the death of the councillor.
A source in the police said the ruling party candidate, Tariqul Islam, who had lost the election, had engaged in conflicts with the winner having allegiance to the BNP.
"He could not accept the defeat by a BNP candidate as the party is quite inactive," the source said.
Police Headquarters' Assistant Inspector General Sohel Rana refused to make any comment on the violence in mayoral elections.
Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of Shushashoner Jonyo Nagorik (Citizens for Good Governance – SHUJAN), told that the turnout of voters in huge numbers might give a positive impression.
"But the reality was very different. In most places, ruling party candidates contested the seats against rebels. That led to violence before and after the polls," he said.
Meanwhile, Election Commission Secretary Md Alamgir said the killing of the BNP-backed candidate in post-polls violence was unfortunate. Such incidents come in the way of democracy, he said.
About Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar's remark that the Saturday municipal elections should not be considered participatory as polling agents of many opposition party candidates were absent, Alamgir said the statement was personal.
About 62% votes were cast, as said by Alamgir, in the polls to 60 municipalities marked by violence and irregularities.
The commission stalled the results of Kishoreganj municipality after the suspension of results of one polling centre.
Of the remaining 59 municipalities, AL candidates won 45 municipalities, opposition BNP candidates four municipalities, Jatiya Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal candidates won one each while independent candidates secured seats in eight municipalities.