Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury (L) and Awami League mayoral candidate Badaruddin Ahmad Kamran in the roundtable. Photo: Prothom AloFollowing the recent city polls in Khulna and Gazipur, candidates of opposition parties and members of the civil society have also expressed their concern about holding free and fair elections in Sylhet city.The mayoral candidate of ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL), however, has expressed his confidence in a fair election.These views were expressed at a roundtable, ‘Sylhet City Corporation: What Kind of Elections We Want’, organised by Prothom Alo at a restaurant in Sylhet on Tuesday.Six of the seven mayoral candidates, local government expert Dr. Tofail Ahmed, six representatives of civil society and two young voters took part in the roundtable.A crisis of confidence in the institutions has been created among the people, the opposition candidates and the civil society representatives said.It is the responsibility of the election commission (EC) to create an environment of confidence, they said.AL mayoral candidate Badaruddin Ahmad Kamran expressed his full confidence in free and fair polls.I have been in politics since 1973. All the elections held in Sylhet were fair, he said.Principal opposition BNP’s candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury disagreed with the views of Kamran.“The signs are saying the Sylhet city election won’t be impartial and fair… Policemen are threatening my probable agents. Details of the polling agents and presiding officers are being taken,” he said.I’ve submitted my allegations to the election commission but to no avail. There is no assurance of a level playing field for all the candidates, Ariful added.Read More: All but AL candidates fear Gazipur-Khulna like polls in BarishalBNP’s rebel and independent candidate Md Badruzzaman Selim said he put up some 50,000 campaign posters, but all of them are removed. However, the posters of ruling party candidate remain untouched, he alleged.Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) nominated mayoral candidate Md Abu Zafar said, “Once Sylhet was a green city. Trees have cut down in the name of beautification.”Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sylhet city unit Ameer and an independent candidate Ehsanul Mahbub Zubayer said something good cannot be expected in a country where 153 lawmakers are elected uncontested.Independent candidate Ehsanul Haque Taher said the law enforcement and the election commission have to play a neutral role to hold a fair election.Local governance expert Tofail Ahmad said currently a culture of fear prevails due to the authoritarian system from union parishad to the city corporation. This needs to be changed.Faruk Mahmud Chowdhury, the Sylhet unit president of Citizens for Good Governance, a civil society platform better known Shujan, said, “We want the election commission to play a role like a referee of the World Cup football but we can’t expect this.”National women lawyers’ association Sylhet division unit president Syeda Shirin Akhtar, Sylhet district lawyers’ association former president Emdad Ullah Shahidul Islam, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology professor Nazia Chowdhury, poet Tushar Kar and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) Sylhet unit general secretary Abdul Karim Chowdhury Kim, new voters physician Tayef Ahmed Chowdhury and SUST student Nafisa Kabir, among others, spoke at the roundtable.Prothom Alo joint editor Sohrab Hasan moderated the event while its deputy editor Lazzat Enab Mahsi delivered the opening statement. Prothom Alo’s staff correspondent in Sylhet Uzzal Mehedi introduced the discussants.