Friday, November 09, 2018 - 838 hours ago
The country’s 11th parliamentary election is set to be held on December 23 (Sunday), as the Chief Election Commissioner announced the poll schedule yesterday. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda unveiled the schedule in a televised address to the nation broadcast at 7pm. The announcement comes despite requests made by the newly formed political alliance Jatiya Oikyafront to defer the poll schedule declaration until the political impasse in the country was resolved. As per the schedule, the last date of submission of nomination papers will be November 19. The scrutiny will be over by November 22 and nominations can be withdrawn until November 29.
Rejecting the Oikyafront’s plea, the EC had earlier said it could not defer the schedule because of constitutional obligations. On Wednesday, the Awami League (AL) met the CEC and said it ‘fully supported’ the announcement of the schedule on November 8. In a recorded speech broadcast by state-run TV and radio, the CEC requested all political parties to join the polls to maintain the democratic process and speed up development in the country. He
also promised a level-playing field for all and sought the cooperation of all citizens in conducting the elections. The CEC said there was a constitutional obligation to hold the polls by January 28, 2019. The countdown has already started and a convenient environment has been created across the country for holding the general elections, he added.
Huda also said that the EC had prepared a roadmap to settle seven issues including law reforms and making the voter rolls in 2017.
The EC also held dialogues with 40 registered political parties, civil society members, media representatives, observer agencies, election experts and women leaders on the roadmap, he added.
The EC has implemented the acceptable matters following their suggestions and recommendations—some laws and rules were amended, the
list of the delimitation of the constituencies were published, and voter rolls were finalised, the CEC said. Huda also said about 40,000 poling centres were selected and registration applications by 75 political parties were settled. Training for capacity-building of the election officials was going on and steps were taken to train polling agents for the first time.
He further said the EC has informed President Md Abdul Hamid about the preparation for the elections and also held inter-ministerial meetings to provide the necessary directives.
The CEC said primary preparations were taken to appoint about seven lakh officials at different levels for conducting the polls. Executive and judicial magistrates would be appointed.
He said over six lakh law enforcers from different forces including the police, BGB, RAB, Coast Guard, Ansar and VDP would be deployed during the polls.
“Legal action would be taken against officers if the elections are damaged due to their failure to dispense their duties properly,” he added.
About Army deployment, Huda said: “The armed forces would be deployed under the rules of Aid to
the Civil Power to assist the civil administration to maintain law and order during elections.”
About the election environment in the country, the CEC said: “A spontaneous interest is created among the people from all walks of life about the national election. Massive preparations have been taken including the strategy of politicians, candidates’ round the clock campaigning, mass contact of supporters, calculation of the voters, procession-slogans in marketplaces, flooding of posters in lanes and alleys, debates in tea stalls, training of officers, changes in the administration and preparation of law enforcers. A delightful and festive environment prevails among all people irrespective of religion, colour and caste.”
“The year 2018 is an election year. The political parties have already started making preparations ahead of the election. The civil society is continuing its opinion. Opinions, essays, reports and articles by election experts and political analysts are being published. TV channels are holding talk-shows about the polls,” he added.
Huda even referred to the dialogue of the political parties with the Prime Minister about holding free, fair and participatory polls. He said election observers at both home and abroad were keen to observe the polls.
About the electoral code of conduct, the CEC said: “Amid the exuberant preparations, I would expect, request and demand that the candidates and their supporters would abide by the electoral code of conduct.”
Assuring the security of the voters, Huda urged them to cast their votes “freely and consciously” for the candidates of their choice.
He also sought the cooperation of the elites and elected representatives in the respective areas to ensure fair environment at the polling centres.
Drawing the attention of the polling agents, the CEC said: “You would stay at the centres until you get the results.”
He also said that election officers would play a neutral role and executive and judicial magistrates would ensure the enforcement of law.
Huda instructed law enforcers to ensure the security of the polling centres, voters, candidates, election officers and agents. He said the media will publish objective news and the observers would follow the rules.
He expressed hope that fair elections can be held if all the parties and the EC Secretariat played their due roles.
Urging all political parties to join the polls, the CEC said: “I request the political parties that if they have any difference of opinions or conflict of opinions between them, then it should be settled politically.”
Huda also requested the political parties to be tolerant, show respect and behave properly with each other. “I expect a competitive election through the participation of all parties. I would specially request the political parties to keep watch over their competition to ensure that rivalry does not lead to revenge and violence,” he added.
He also instructed the law enforcers to ensure that the voters, political party leaders and activists, candidates, supporters and agents should not be subject to harassment or face cases.
About the security of minorities and women, the CEC assured that they can cast votes safely.
About creating a level playing field, the CEC said: “All political parties and candidates will get a level playing field during campaigning. Soon a circular would be issued in this regard.”
Huda also said the candidates will have facilities to submit online nominations along with manual submission.
On electronic voting machines (EVMs), the CEC said the commission has taken the initiative to use EVMs along with traditional paper ballots in some urban areas on random basis. The EC wanted to use EVMs because they showed good results in local government polls, he added.