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JS election Dec 23

EC announces schedule amid opposition by Oikyafront, other parties **Nomination paper submission by Nov 19 *Scrutiny on November 22 *Withdrawal of candidature Nov 29 *Seven lakh electoral officials, six lakh security men *Armed Forces to assist civil administration * Limited EVM use

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Monirul Alam :
The 11th parliamentary Polls of Bangladesh will be held on 23rd December 2018.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda announced the date of elections in his address to the Nation last evening. According to CEC, the last date for collection and submission of nomination forms was set on November 19 (Monday). Scrutiny of candidatures will be completed on November 22 (Thursday). The last date of withdrawal of candidature is November 29 (Thursday).
The Election Commission (EC) finally rang the bell for holding of the legislative elections amid speculations that dialogue between the incumbent government and opposition political parties may take place further; and thus, schedule announced by the EC may be amended later.
Huda started his speech for the Nation expressing due respect to 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh and its founder and father of the Nation Bangabondhu Sheikh  Mujibur Rahman.
He said a convenient atmosphere has been prevailing across the country for holding of the 11th Parliamentary election this year. He said all the commissioners have taken oath to hold the election and print and purchase of election materials about to complete. He said the EC has appointed some 7 lakh crews to operate elections.
"This is momentum for holding of polls to elect lawmakers who will formulate a government for the next five years regime. Hence, the EC is going to hold the national election in light with the Constitution's Section 123 (subsection 3) part (Ka)," KM Nurul Huda said.
"Voters will elect candidates of their choice fairly. 
I will expect, request and demand that all the candidates will comply with the election 'code of conduct' properly.  I do hope local elites and elder and respected personalities will extend their help in maintaining peaceful environment."
He again said, "People of this country irrespective of color, cast, religion, party and minorities will be able to cast their vote in the election    as law enforcement agencies will remain alert to ensure peaceful environment. All can be able to go back from poll centres and stay in home peacefully after casting votes."
"I expect cooperation of you all in holding a free and fair election," he said.
In his speech, Huda also urged all the political parties to participate in elections and sought cooperation of the countrymen for holding the election in a free and fair manner. He said a uniformed and unvarying 'Election Code of Conduct' will be circulated in the form of gazette for all the candidates to follow. He said some 75 political parties were registered with the EC except  Jamaat-e-Islami.
He said the EC has built an information bank by its network with improved technology for exchange and scrutiny of information placed by candidates. He said the scope of online submission of nomination forms by candidates has also been opened.
He said a level-playing field will be ensured by the EC with the help of law enforcement agencies for participation of all eligible candidates in the election.
He said the EC has strict directives on law enforcement agencies to ensure 'no harassment to candidates, political activists, supporters' without any valid reason … aiming to create level playing field for holding of the 11th parliamentary polls.
Huda said around six lakh members of different law enforcement agencies and forces will be engaged in maintaining law and order in elections. He said they are from police, BGB, RAB, Coastguard, Ansars and village Protection Forces (former Village Police).
"Proper monitoring has been planned for their integrity, neutrality and dedication in discharging duties. They will be held responsible and punished for any failure or disturbance to election process," Huda said.
He said executive magistrates will be appointed at every election constituency. He said Executive magistrates must ensure security to voters and candidates by optimum utilize of law enforcement members
He said members of armed forces will assist civil administration to ensure a free, fair and peaceful election and maintain law and order stability during the elections.
The CEC delivered a set of directions for the poll officials and agents, media crews and election observers.
"Polling agents will stay at respective voting centres until announcement of results. Polling officials will maintain neutrality. Media crews and election observers must play its due role in broadcasting election news fairly."
He said election officials will keep vigilance on round-the-clock developments and would act as per necessity.
He said EC will use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in limited scale in elections as EVMs have successful operations in a large number of local government polls in the last few years. He explains justification of EVMs. "Voters were informed of EVMs by demonstration at districts and rural areas. I believe it will improve voting quality in phases in the future."
He has called upon the leaders of different political parties to make election contest competitive and remain alert to avoid any violence.
He also urged all the political parties to remove differences through discussion.
On 1st of October, CEC KM Nurul Huda led the EC delegation to a meeting with President Abdul Hamid and informed him about election preparations.
The government held a series of dialogues with the alliances of different political parties to reach an understanding over the holding of parliamentary polls inclusive. But, the understanding remains a far cry due to the government's inability to accept demands of the alliances.
Oikyfront said it will continue movement to realise their demands.
Oikyfront's major demands included dissolution of the Parliament, formation of a non-partisan poll-time government, recasting of the EC and freeing BNP chairperson from jail.
Announcement of the election schedule was much of eventful as the Oikyfront has postponed its pre-announced 'Road March Programme' towards Rajshahi yesterday. At the same time, the planned press conference of the Prime Minister has also been cancelled.
The government side is defending the cancellation of press conference saying that it will be held in the next couple of days. The government side also said that there is no connection between postponement of Oikyfront's 'Road March Programme' and cancellation of Prime Minister's press conference.

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