Awami League mayoral candidate Arfanul Haque Rifat unofficially won the high-voltage Cumilla City Corporation election reversing the winning streak of independent runner Monirul Haque Sakku in a very close contest on Wednesday.
Rifat defeated two-time mayor Sakku by a margin of only 343 votes as the Cumilla city witnessed so tight a race in a peaceful election after a long time.
According to the unofficial results, Rifat bagged 50,310 votes while his nearest candidate Sakku obtained 49,967 votes.
Independent candidates Mohammed Nizam Uddin won 29,099 votes, Kamrul Ahsan Babul 2,329 votes and Islami Andolon Bangladesh candidate Md Rasedul Islam bagged 3,040 votes.
Out of the five mayoral candidates, Rifat contested the election with the symbol of "Boat" while Sakku with "Table Clock" symbol.
Returning officer of Cumilla City Corporation Election, Shahedunnabi Chowdhury announced the results of the all the 105 polling stations at around 9:30pm.
Out of the 5 mayoral candidates, Rifat contested the election with the symbol of “Boat” while Sakku with “Table Clock”.
In his initial reaction, Sakku turned down the election results as he claimed to be subjected to a conspiracy.
He also said he was defatted in a planned way by manipulating the results of a few centers.
Earlier, voting in the Cumilla City Corporation election ended peacefully amid reports of technical fault in voting machines in a couple of centres and slow voting.
Balloting for the election started at 8am and continued till 4pm without any break. Counting of votes began shortly after the voting ended.
Voters exercised their franchise in a festive mood using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
Rifat cast his vote at Cumilla Victoria Collegiate High School around 9:15 am.
Expressing satisfaction over the overall election environment, he said he was also hopeful about his victory.
Independent candidate and immediate-past mayor Monirul Haque Sakku cast his vote around 9 am at Hossamia High School in the city.
Talking to reporters, Sakku said he was also confident about his victory if the election held in a free and fair manner.
Later, Mohammad Nizam Uddin Kaiser, an independent candidate and local MP AKM Bahauddin Bahar also cast their vote at the same centre.
A large number of voters were seen standing in long queues to cast their votes despite rain in the morning.
It is the third election of the Cumilla City Corporation after its formation in 2011 while for the first under the new Election Commission.
Five candidates vied for the mayoral posts while 106 ones for 27 ward councilor posts and 36 women for nine reserved seats in the election.
The first two elections to the Cumilla city Corporation were held in 2011 and 2017. In the two elections, BNP leader Monirul Haque Sakku was elected the mayor.
BNP, however, boycotted the polls as per its decision not to participate in polls under the current Awami League government.
On May 19 last BNP expelled Sakku for life as he was contesting the city polls defying the party's decision. Sakku himself also resigned from his post to contest the polls.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal on Wednesday said the elections to Cumilla City Corporation, five municipalities and more than 120 Union Parishads in different districts were held in a fair and peaceful manner.
“Our overall opinion is that the polls to a city corporation, municipalities and union parishads were held in a peaceful and fair manner,” he said at a post-election press conference at his office in the city’s Agargaon area.
He said they monitored the elections as much as possible through CC cameras and televisions and found the electoral environment peaceful since the morning and the elections were held without any violence.
“We have not heard any allegations from the voters,” he said.
The CEC said the voter turnout was around 60 percent according to the primary information the EC offices gleaned from the polling stations.
About the electronic voting machine (EVM), Habibul Awal said the commission observed that elections were held in a good manner with the EVMs, though some people alleged that they faced problems in exercising voting rights through the machines.