BNP senior leader Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan on Friday alleged that the government has taken various unconstitutional, immoral and deceptive moves, including intimidating voters, to show artificial voter turnout in Sunday’s election.

Speaking at a press conference, the BNP leader called upon the people to boycott voting in the ‘farcical’ election, braving what he said all threats and intimidation by the government.

BNP standing committee arranged the press conference on the premises of Moyeen Khan’s Gulshan residence, just two days before the voting. It was the first formal in-person press conference of the BNP since its grand rally was foiled in the capital on October 28.

“Criticism and hilarity are going on at home and abroad about the one-sided election of seat sharing and distribution to be held on January 7... the government has not stopped by creating dummy candidates and dummy parties, as they have now turned their attention to forcefully creating dummy voters,” Dr Moyeen said.

Alongside BNP and 62 pro-democracy political parties, he said voters of all classes and professions and every conscious citizen of the country have already boycotted and rejected the so-called election.

“Getting desperate to hang onto power, the illegitimate government is trying to show the arrangement of seat distribution as a participatory and inclusive election. So, the Awami League and the identified quarters of the state apparatus have devised a blueprint of the conspiracy,” the BNP leader observed.

He alleged that the way the government has resorted to violence to show the presence of artificial voters in a ‘meaningless’ election, which is being held against the aspirations of the people, is morally anti-people and politically childish.

“The list of all their tricks to show the inflated number of presence of voters is now clear to the international stakeholders...the Awami League and its submissive state apparatus have taken countless unethical, undemocratic, and unconstitutional initiatives to show false and fraudulent voter turnout,” Dr Moyeen said.

As part of the move to intimidate voters, he said the MPs of the government are threatening that millions of beneficiaries of the government’s social safety net programmes will lose their financial benefits if they do not go to the polling stations.

“At present, about 12.8 million people are getting various social benefits which is an ongoing process under all governments. Awami League has given instructions to ensure these beneficiaries and their family members go to the polling stations. It is being told that if they do not vote on January 7, their allowances will be cancelled,” he said.

The BNP leader also alleged that the central and local leaders of the Awami League have started seizing the cards of government beneficiaries in many places by resorting to coercive tactics.

“Beneficiaries are being threatened door to door that they will not get their cards back if they don’t go to polling stations and vote in public. Initiatives are also being taken through the local administration to compel the beneficiaries of various types of social security programmes to cast their votes,” he said.

Besides, he said, the government has unlawfully taken an unprecedented initiative to allow nearly two million government employees across the country to cast their votes by postal ballots.

“Such a decision imposed against their will has created frustration across large sections of the administration. This is an attempt to control the voting rights of government officials,” he said.

Dr Moyeen said the illegitimate government and its subservient state machinery have focused on taking the postal votes of government officials and employees who will participate in the election process. “At the same time, the officials are also asked to ensure that their family members go to the polling stations. Apart from this, over a lakh of officers of private and autonomous organisations, involved in various electoral duties, including presiding and polling officers, are being asked to vote by postal ballots.”

He said a large part of 6.1 million of Ansar and VDP will perform various duties on the so-called Election Day. “A letter has been sent from the headquarters to each unit and battalion to ensure postal voting for all of them and at least five members of each family to go to the voting centres.”

The BNP leader alleged that members of police across the country are on a mission to increase voter turnout.

“The police commissioner of Dhaka himself called the councilors of the two city corporations and urged them to ensure the presence of voters at the polling stations as much as possible. The SPs and OCs of the police in various places are directly involved in the campaign of Awami League candidates and asking people to cast their votes. A question has arisen in the public mind, who has given the police the political responsibility to increase voter participation? What is the constitutional and legal basis for this biased and partisan behaviour?

He accused the Awami League leaders of threatening people with revoking their national ID cards and stopping different utility services if they did not go to the polling stations

Besides, Dr Moyeen said the ruling party leaders and workers are making preparations to increase the presence of voters by resorting to various tricks and terror acts and casting fake votes.

He called upon the people to face the threats of the illegal government with courage and keep records of the names of those who were forcing them to go to the polling stations.

“We want to say that the time of this one-party government is over. So there is no more reason to care about their unjust and illegal threats. We hope that the people of Bangladesh will soon be freed from the grip of one-party rule,” he said Another BNP Standing Committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said the government has been carrying out subversive acts like torching vehicles and trains to shift the blame on BNP and malign its peaceful movement.

He alleged that the ruling party is playing with the fate of the people by holding a lopsided election, destroying the country and its all achievements.

BNP Standing Committee member Selima Rahman called upon the people to peacefully observe the 48-hour hartal to be enforced by their party from 6am Saturday as part of a move to boycott the election.

“We have appealed to the people to observe strike and boycott this election. That is why our leaders and workers will carry out the programme in a peaceful manner,” she said.