From the very beginning, the Election Commission (EC) took the just-concluded Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) election as a challenge and the countrymen will now evaluate how successful it has been, said Returning Officer Mahfuza Akter on Monday.
"It was the last election of the present commission. So from the beginning, we took this as a challenge. The results of which you have already seen," Mahfuza, also regional election officer for the Dhaka Region, said in a conversation with The Business Standard on Monday afternoon.
In the much-hyped elections on Sunday, Awami League's Selina Hayat Ivy secured her third consecutive victory for the mayoral post by defeating her nearest rival independent candidate Taimur Alam Khandaker by a wide margin.
The returning officer said from the very beginning, there were many questions in the minds of many people whether the election would be free, fair and neutral.
"We were hoping to present the people in Narayanganj a fair election. We have all worked in that way and election commissioners have provided us with necessary instructions to this end," she went on.
"We had promised a fair election. Now I can say that we have been able to arrange a nice, bloodless election which has been better than people's expectations," she said.
In response to a question on how it was possible to arrange such an election, Mahfuza Akhter said the local district administration, Rapid Action Battalion, Border Guard Bangladesh, police, Ansar and particularly all candidates and their supporters cooperated with the EC.
She said no major untoward incidents, clashes or violence took place in Narayanganj and the people there have helped the commission organise such an election.
The regional election official further said usually union parishad elections are held on the same date in different unions under two to three upazilas in a district. This happens all over the country. In such a situation, the members of the law enforcement agencies have to divide into groups to ensure security in all the election areas.
She said, however, no election took place in the nearby districts alongside the city corporation polls. In fact, the only target of the commission was Narayanganj. That is why adequate measures were taken.
Regarding the complexity of electronic voting machines (EVMs), Mahfuza Akhter said for the first time the voting took place in Narayanganj using EVMs. It took some time for many women and elderly people to get used to voting in this process as they were new.
However, the election official does not see 56% voter turnout as a serious problem.
"Voters will be able to say why they did not come to vote. But we did not have any lacking in creating an environment for elections. We have never heard of such a thing that anyone could not come to vote," said the returning officer.
She further said her work experience in the field level with the Election Commission has helped in organising such a large scale election.
Before serving as the regional election officer for the Dhaka Region, she worked at the EC Secretariat.