BD elections meaningless if not participatory: Former chief election commissioner

Several political parties are on the streets to press home their 10-point demand, including an impartial caretaker or interim government.

Mohiuddin Alamgir

Mohiuddin Alamgir

The Daily Star


Star file photo

December 22, 2022

DHAKA – A former chief election commissioner yesterday said the commission has to bring all political parties to the national election when the current election commissioners say that it is not their job to ensure all parties participation.

Former chief election commissioner Mohammad Abu Hena yesterday also said elections were meaningless if they were not participatory.

At a different event the same day, Kazi Habibul Awal, the current chief election commissioner, said he would not force any political party to participate in the election.

The BNP and many other political parties have announced that they have boycotted the next national election.

The BNP and several other political parties are on the streets to press home their 10-point demand that includes formation of an impartial caretaker or interim government which would form a neutral Election Commission to ensure a level-playing field for all parties.

They are also demanding that the use of EVMs and participation of political parties in local government elections should stop.

On August 25, Election Commissioner Md Alamgir said, “There are 39 registered political parties in the country. It is not written anywhere that an election cannot be held if any one of them refuses to participate,” he said.

CEC Awal on September 5, said, “The BNP is one of the major political parties. If they join the election, it will be more participatory… But we can’t interfere in the strategy of a political party … That is beyond our jurisdiction.”

Speaking at a programme in Patuakhali yesterday, he said there was no pressure on the EC from the international community regarding the parliamentary polls set to be held in early January 2024.

“We have no comments on the statements made by the ambassadors about the national polls,” he said.

Meanwhile, former CEC Hena, while speaking at a book-launching ceremony jointly organised by Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik and Agami Prakashoni, said: “An election is meaningless if it is not participatory. An election is not an election at all if it is not competitive.”

They unveiled two books containing information on candidates who participated in the 2014 and 2018 national elections at The Daily Star Centre.

Everyone expects a participatory national election, Hena said. “After earning [everybody’s] confidence, they would be able to bring all to the elections. This is immensely important. I request the incumbent EC to start working [to gain people’s confidence].

“Only urging all to join the election is not enough… Create that confidence through what you do. The EC has to be neutral and that neutrality should be visible.”

When a reporter drew his attention to the fact that the current commissioners maintained that it was not their job to bring all political parties to the election, Hena said, “No, No, It is not correct at all. You have to bring all political parties to the election. It is our duty to hold a free and fair election. An election can be free and fair only if it is participated by all.”

The EC should hold dialogues with all parties again and again, he said.

The constitution guarantees that the EC is completely independent and it is the duty of all executive authorities to assist the EC in discharging its duties. “The EC should take advantage of the constitutional guarantee in holding free and fair elections,” he said.

Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said the election should be competitive, not just participatory. “There should be alternatives for voters.”

The EC currently does not verify information provided by the candidates on their affidavits, he said.

“But in many cases, the candidates give false information. If false information is given, the EC can cancel the candidature.”

Brig Gen (retd) Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain, a former election commissioner, said there are some grey areas in the Representation of the People Order (RPO) that should be addressed.

“The Election Commission does not seem to have the capacity to verify the information provided on the affidavit.”

He said during their tenure, they sent the candidates’ wealth information, provided in affidavits, to the National Board of Revenue (NBR). But there was no response from the NBR.

Replying to a question on “stuffing ballot boxes the night before the 11th parliamentary election” and the statement of the then CEC KM Nurul Huda in this regard, Sakhawat said, “In the morning, the BBC showed that the voting was held on the night before the election day. The EC could have stopped voting in places where it happened. But it wasn’t done.”

“The commission could have also withheld the publication of gazette notifications and launched investigations,” he said.

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