As the clock winds down to the Dhaka city polls, returning officers have been inundated with complaints of electoral misconduct, mostly against candidates vying for councillors' posts in the capital's bifurcated city corporations.
As many as 103 complaints over violations of election rules have been registered so far. These range from vandalism of posters, obstructing and attacking rival campaigns and setting up too many election camps in the run up to the elections.
While councillor candidates are the ones who are predominantly trading accusations of irregularity among themselves, over in the mayoral races, such allegations have only been made by the BNP-endorsed candidates, reports bdnews24.com.
The ruling Awami League-backed mayoral aspirants have not levelled any accusations of foul play against their rivals despite being on the receiving end of a dozen complaints in Dhaka North and South.
According to election officials, executive magistrates are taking steps against alleged breaches of the code of conduct on the spot while issuing warnings upon investigating others. But they lack jurisdiction to deal with allegations of criminal conduct, which are being forwarded to the police instead.
The polls to Dhaka North and South city corporations will be held on Feb 1. As per the rules, candidates are required to wrap up their election campaigns on Jan 30, having started on Jan 10.
In the meantime, the majority of BNP-backed contestants have expressed discontent with the election atmosphere while the Election Commission has come under heavy criticism from the party's central leaders.
33 allegations of misconduct in Dhaka North
Only 33 complaints of misconduct have been lodged against candidates vying for mayoral and councillors' posts in Dhaka North City Corporation until Friday, according to election officials.
The returning officer for DNCC, EC's Joint Secretary Abul Kashem, said the authorities are looking into the written complaints and taking appropriate measures. But since the atmosphere heading into the polls is 'good', allegations of substantial code of conduct violations have been few and far between, according to Kashem.
A complaint was received against an Awami League candidate before the start of campaigning and a show-cause notice was issued accordingly, he said. There were a couple of other allegations but these lacked any substance, added Kashem.
"The last complaint that was filed concerned an attack on the campaign of a BNP candidate. Police and a magistrate are probing the matter. Their report will be sent to the EC," he said.
So far, two candidates have been warned and another fined for flouting election rules, according to the returning officer's Staff Officer Mahbubur Rahman.
Tabith Awal, the BNP-backed candidate, is the only mayoral candidate to have lodged a few complaints while the others involve councillor candidates, he said. The returning officer has already looked into and settled all the complaints.
70 allegations of misconduct in Dhaka South
The returning officer for Dhaka South City Corporation elections has received 70 complaints against election hopefuls until Friday, according to Staff Officer Masudul Haque.
But none of these have come from any Awami League-backed candidates. Most of the allegations of misconduct involve councillor candidates while the BNP-backed mayoral contestant Ishraque Hossain has lodged at least seven complaints.
The election officials have issued warnings to candidates accused of conduct violations, said Returning Officer Abdul Baten.
"The returning officer has dealt with all the allegations. An unapproved election camp has been torn down while some were let off with warnings. There were allegations of vandalism, for which fines were imposed," said Masudul.