Glitches in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the Cumilla City Corporation polls led to the voters having to wait for long hours in the queues.
Voters in several polling stations in the city reported facing trouble while casting their ballots in EVMs.
Slow voting due to confusion over how to use EVMs and technical glitches caused long queues at many voting centres while heavy rains made matters worse.
Meanwhile, some voters of Ward No 19 claimed that the EVM used at the Newra M I High School polling station had only Awami League's "Boat" symbol on display to choose from.
Responding to the complaints, Judicial Magistrate Omar Faruq paid a visit to the centre to look into the matter.
However, as per his claims, he was obstructed by Presiding Officer Nazmul Amin who did not allow him to enter the booth in question.
Speaking with the reporters while leaving the centre, he said, "I came here to verify the claims made by the voters. But when I entered the polling booth and wanted to see the EVM at work, the presiding officer obstructed me. I was told to leave immediately."
Balloting in the election to Cumilla City Corporation began on Wednesday morning.
Voters started exercising their franchise from 8am and the turnout increased as the day progressed. Voting ended at 4pm without any breaks or interruptions.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of polling centre domination from different parts of the city.
The latest updates of the city corporation election are as follows --
After getting information that Cumilla University (CU) Chhatra League President Ilius Hossain Sabuj has taken position inside the voting centre at Shalban Bihar Government Primary School, an executive magistrate appeared with BGB force to arrest him.
However, members of the CU Chhatra League obstructed their path in an attempt to prevent the arrest in front of the school, which is adjacent to three residential halls of the university.
Finding no other way, the executive magistrate then left the place.
A clash broke out between the supporters of two councillor candidates at the Bishnupur Government Primary School under Ward No 1.
At one point, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) men had to charge batons to bring the situation under control.
Total six individuals have been jailed for casting fake votes and trying to create chaos at various centres during today's city polls.
"One has been jailed for three months. The five others have been sentenced to three to seven days in prison," confirmed Cumilla Deputy Commissioner (DC) and District Magistrate (DM) Kamrul Hasan to The Business Standard.
The two frontrunners in the city mayoral race, Arfanul Haque Rifat and Monirul Haque Sakku, have cast their votes.
Awami League-backed candidate Rifat voted at the Comilla Victoria Collegiate School centre.
Meanwhile, Sakku, expelled by BNP for life for contesting the polls, exercised his franchise at the Hossamia Lutfnnessa Girls School centre today (15 June) morning.
Rifat told reporters that he is "100% optimistic" about winning the mayoral post.
Whereas, Sakku said that he was satisfied with the voting situation so far but complained that EVMs are very slow and for this reason, voting was being delayed.
Some voters of Ward No 19 have claimed that the EVM being used at the Newra M I High School polling station displays only one symbol, "Boat", to choose from.
Responding to the complaints, Judicial Magistrate Omar Faruq made a visit to the centre to look into the matter.
However, as per his claims, he was obstructed by the concerned Presiding Officer Nazmul Amin who did not allow him to enter the booth in question.
Speaking with the reporters while leaving the centre, he said, "I came here to verify the claims made by the voters.
"But when I entered the polling booth and wanted to see the EVM at work, the presiding officer obstructed me. I was told to leave immediately."
Supporters and activists of two councillor candidates locked horns during the early hours of Wednesday.
"The incident took place in front of Katabil School under Ward No 15. Cocktails were hurled and three people were seriously injured in the clash," confirmed Kotwali Model police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Sahidur Rahman to The Business Standard.
According to locals, supporters of Armanur Rahman Arman, contesting the polls with "Top" symbol, were distributing money to influence the voters.
At that time, supporters of Humayun Kabir, his rival candidate with "Saw" symbol, confronted them then the situation went out of hand.
"We are yet to receive a written complaint. Necessary steps will be taken upon further investigation," the OC added.
Two men wearing ruling party badges were seen inside one of the polling booths of Reazuddin Government Primary School, under the city's Ward No 5.
Asked why they were being involved in such a gross violation of the election rules, Abdul Kuddus, a local Awami League activist, claimed that they were "just helping the elderlies with using EVM."
When informed about the irregularities, Cumilla City Corporation Returning Officer Shahedunnabi Chowdhury, said that he is looking into the matter.
Voting at the Reazuddin Government Primary School, under the city's Ward No 5, began at 8am.
Mojibur Rahman Manu, a local who came to exercise his franchise today morning, said, "There are no long queues outside the polling centre.
"Thus I was able to vote very easily. This is my second using the EVM."
Meanwhile, a large group of people, wearing Awami League badges, were seen at the entrance of the polling station.
Opposition leaders and activists claimed that the ruling party men were trying to influence and force the general people to vote for their desired candidate.
Denying the allegations, Hafizur Rahman, an Awami League activist from Ward No 5 said, "We are basically helping the voters. Especially the elders."
Not only does Cumilla city go to polls today to pick a mayor and councillors, the Election Commission, which took charge in February, will also go through its first major test.
The test is about whether the measures taken up by the Kazi Habibul Awal-led Election Commission (EC) work to ensure a violence-free election with a huge turnout. It is about whether the steps were adequate to keep the election frauds at bay and ensure that no post-poll violence mars the festivity.
The Kazi Habibul Awal-led EC will be holding the next national elections in late 2023. Political analysts say if the commission can accomplish its Cumilla test, it will be a big boost to the EC's credibility to the people about the electoral system and the key political opposition BNP, which has been refusing the commission.
Though the BNP is not officially taking part in the Cumilla City Corporation election, its Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir Tuesday told journalists in Thakurgaon that they would keep an eye on the polls.
The main battle of ballot for the mayoral office will be between Monirul Haque Sakku and Awami League mayoral nominee Arfanul Haque Rifat.
Sakku is the immediate past mayor of the city and was expelled from the BNP for taking part in the polls going against the party decision. Apart from Awami League backed heavyweight candidate Rifat, he will be vying with Nizamuddin Kaiser, another local BNP leader who was suspended for taking part in the election.
On the other hand, Rifat's major challenge would be to keep the intra-party grouping in check.
The EC completed its preparations to hold the polls in 105 polling centres. Electronic voting machines were sent to the centres on Tuesday morning while additional law enforcers have been deployed to avert any untoward incident.
Cumilla Superintendent of Police Faruk Ahmed said there will be 105 mobile teams for 105 centres. Besides, nearly 50 executive magistrates will also be on election duty on Wednesday.
The electioneering which began on 27 May ended on Monday night, as the city did not witness any major untoward incident.
However, Nizamuddin Kaiser at a press conference on Tuesday expressed concern over the poll atmosphere.
He also demanded the authorities to encourage the voters so that they come to the centres and cast the ballots. He also asked the election commissioners to visit the city on Wednesday.
"When people see that even the chief election commissioner cannot force a lawmaker to leave the city for violating the code of conduct, they simply get frightened," said the mayor aspirant.
Recently, the EC directed the ruling Awami League MP AKM Bahauddin to leave Cumilla for violating the code of conduct. But the lawmaker from Comilla-6 constituency did not obey it, and continued to campaign for the Awami League-backed candidate.
Later, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal said the EC has nothing to do if a lawmaker does not listen to them. The CEC's remark prompted criticisms over its sincerity towards a free and fair election, as the lawmaker did not leave Cumilla ultimately.
On Tuesday, Sakku talked to the press at his residence, criticising Kaiser for splitting his votes – which tends to capitalise the anti-government sentiment.
In the maiden Cumilla city polls in 2012, Sakku defeated Awami League candidate Afzal Khan by over 30,000 votes. In 2017, he defeated Afzal's daughter Anjum Sultana Sima by about 10,000 votes.
In today's polls, 229,920 voters, including 117,092 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the city corporation polls which will begin in the morning and continue till afternoon without any break.
A total of 5 mayoral candidates, 108 councillor aspirants and 38 female councillor aspirants will be vying in the polls.
According to the EC, for the first time in the country, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been installed in all the polling booths in Cumilla. The EC will have video footage of the polling station except for the secret voting room. If anyone commits any irregularity, immediate action will be taken.