Balloting in the elections to some 708 Union Parishads (UPs) in 48 districts of the country is underway in the fifth phase of the countrywide elections to the lowest tier of the local government.
The polling has begun at 8:00am and will continue till 4:00pm without any break.
A total of 3,278 chairman, 25,233 general member and 7,950 reserve member candidates are contesting the local body polls being boycotted by most opposition parties, including Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), as they announced that they would not participate in any election under the current EC.
Some 14,220,195 voters – 7,060,140 males, 6,836,031 females and 21 transgender ones - will be able to exercise their franchise in 708 UPs under 95 upazilas.
Incidents of violence, clashes between rival groups, vandalism and torching of campaign offices have become widespread during the ongoing UP polls.
Like previous phases, the supporters of different rival candidates got involved in clashes and vandalism in different parts of the country centring on the fifth phase of the elections.
One person was killed and dozens were injured in violence during the fourth-phase UP polls held on December 26 amid allegations of ballot-stuffing and irregularities.
With this, at least 93 people were killed and many others injured since the staggered elections to the lowest tier of the local government began on June 21.
During the second phase of the UP polls, at least seven people, including a possible chairman candidate, were killed and many others injured in different parts of the country, including Narsingdi, Rangamati and Magura districts.
Most of the bloody clashes took place among the supporters of rival candidates of ruling Awami League.
Fearing violence during today’s voting, adequate law enforcers, including police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel, have already been deployed in election areas.
There are also judicial and executive magistrates in the field to ensure that the electoral code of conduct is followed properly.
In this phase, chairman candidates in 52 UPs have already been elected uncontested. Besides, 32 member contestants from reserved women's ward and 109 members from general wards have been elected unopposed.
The ruling is struggling to prevent rebel candidates from contesting the polls in most UPs.
The first phase of the UP elections was held on June 21 and September 20 while the second phase on November 11 and the third phase on November 28.
Meanwhile, the sixth phase of the elections is billed for January 31.
On October 16, four members of a family were killed and several other people injured as supporters of two UP member hopefuls in Jagdal union parishad election clashed in Magura Sadar upazila.
On October 18, an Awami League chairman candidate was shot to death by miscreants at Agapara in Kaptai upazila of Rangamati.
There are around 4,500 union parishads in Bangladesh. The last elections to more than 4,000 union parishads were held in six phases from March to June in 2016.