After quite a while the two archrival political alliances lock horns in the polls to four divisional city corporations even though the elections are supposed to be non-partisan in nature.
The current five-member Election Commission has a lot to prove as this is the first time it is going to hold such an election since it was formed in February last year.
The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance and the Awami League-led 14-party ruling alliance have a lot riding on the polls as the elections scheduled for June 15 would give them some idea about their position on the ground. Political mileage would be gained though each victory ahead of the general elections.
The camps have already extended full support to the mayoral candidates. The high-ups of the camps have directed their grassroots to ensure victory by working together.
After around two decades, the Awami League and BNP will have a face-off in Rajshahi and Khulna city corporation mayoral elections.
Records say that the first mayoral polls to the two city corporations were held in 1994, when a BNP-led government was in office, and the BNP-backed mayoral candidates won.
In the second elections to Rajshahi and Khulna city corporations held in April, 2002, the Awami League did not support any candidate as the party was reeling from the shock of defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections.
BNP-backed mayoral candidates won again.
However, the BNP did not support anyone in the last polls to the two city corporations held in August 2008 in protest against the state of emergency declared by the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker regime.
Awami League-backed mayoral candidates swept to victory and also won in the mayoral elections to Barisal and Sylhet city corporations held at that time.
Awami League and BNP-backed candidates went head to head for the first time in Barisal and Sylhet city corporations polls in 2003. Awami League supported mayoral candidate had won the Sylhet battle while pro-BNP mayoral candidate won in Barisal.
Now, the voters in the four city corporations would determine whether the Awami League alliance supported mayoral candidates, who had won in 2008, would go back to office or the BNP-backed candidates would have the last laugh.
The election results, view some analysts, may influence the political atmosphere in the coming days. And it may leave some message for the parties ahead of the upcoming parliamentary polls.
If irregularities happen in the polls, it would add fuel to the opposition’s street agitation demanding the restoration of a non-partisan election-time government.
If everything goes smooth, the Awami League-led government is sure to claim credit and say that it always ensures free and fair polls.
Meanwhile, winning the battle of ballots would help a camp claim that its popularity has increased.
Rafiqul Islam Miah, a member of BNP national standing committee, told The Daily Star yesterday, “If the polls are held in a free and fair manner and if the BNP-backed candidates win the four mayoral polls, it will send a clear message to the government that people do not like the government.”
His colleague Goyeshwar Chandra Roy yesterday said, “It is a hypothetical notion that the elections will be free and fair under this government. If there is any irregularity, it will further justify our demand for a non-partisan election-time government.”
Talking to The Daily Star Mahbubul Alam Hanif, joint general secretary of Awami League, said it was not possible to judge the popularity of the government or any political party through local government polls. Many local issues matter in the polls, he added.
Hanif, a special assistant to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said all the polls held in the last four and a half years were free and fair and the upcoming polls would also be free and fair.