EC's unbiased role expected to ensure fair polls
Noman Mosharef :
With only seven days left, election fever has gripped the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) as the mayoral and councillor contenders are passing their busy time in campaign to win the race.
Centering Dhaka city polls, electioneering is gaining momentum day by day with contestants' various programmes and pledges to attract the voters.
People from all ages, particularly the youths, are bringing out processions in favour of their respective mayoral and councillor candidates that continue till late at night.
Meanwhile, all political parties, especially the two major parties -- Awami League and BNP - during the campaign pledged that they would make the Dhaka city corporations free from extortion, illegal drugs, tender manipulation and women violence if they were elected the February 1 election.
BNP, from the very beginning, has been continuously alleging that the Election Commission's (EC's) activities is not for ensuring a level playing field for their candidates. It also alleged that the EC is acting in favour of Awami League.
On the other hand, leaders of the ruling Awami League have termed illogical the remarks of the Chief Election Commissioner
that members of parliament and ministers can neither take part in electioneering nor act as election coordinators.
The BNP leaders have alleged that their activists are being threatened and their candidates and supporters facing obstacles to organise their campaigns.
BNP Senior Leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain has recently alleged that the Election Commission is not taking any step to ensure a level-playing field for the upcoming Dhaka city polls.
"The ruling party candidates are preventing our election campaign through attacks at different places in the city. Our councillor candidates are being intimidated, their houses are being attacked and their loudspeakers are being snatched during campaign. It's very regrettable," he said.
As per the election code of conduct, the BNP leader said, using coloured posters and pasting those on walls are completely prohibited. "But the Awami League candidates are not obeying it. The EC is not taking any action either. That means a level-playing field is not created yet."
BNP's mayoral candidates in the elections to Dhaka south and north city corporations on Tuesday demanded the Election Commission to ensure a level-playing field as they are facing various obstacles during their electioneering.
Talking to reporters during their election campaigns, the two mayoral candidates also said that the ruling party has got scared seeing the mass wave created in favour of the 'Sheaf of Paddy', the electoral symbol of BNP.
"Ruling party cadres are obstructing us from pasting posters, and they're tearing up our posters at many places. We're making complaints with the Election Commission regularly, but it's taking no action," said BNP's Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) mayoral candidate Ishraque Hossain. BNP on Tuesday sent a letter to the Election Commission urging it to refrain from using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming elections to Dhaka north and south city corporations.
A party delegation, led by its standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, went to the EC office with a letter of BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
The delegation also held a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda and other commissioners.
In the letter, Fakhrul said the EC still has the scope for proving its neutrality in the February-1 city polls. "Take steps for conducting the voting through the traditional ballot cancelling the EVM system taking the futility of the technology into consideration."
The ruling Awami League is not bothering the directives of the Election Commission over the Dhaka south and north city corporation elections.
Two senior leaders of AL, who are also lawmakers, have been coordinating Dhaka city corporation polls.
However, the ruling party has acknowledged there is a restriction on the members of parliament to seek votes for their candidates in the upcoming Dhaka city polls.
Many AL leaders think there should not be any obstacles to formulating election strategies and in implementing those in favour of their party candidates.
They said the MPs did such activities in local government elections in the past. They are campaigning this time staying behind the scene.
But the Election Commission said the MPs will not be able to coordinate or continue indoor activities for their mayoral candidates in the city polls.
At a joint meeting of Awami League central executive committee and advisory council on January 3, two committees were formed for the coordination of Dhaka north and south city corporation elections.
Advisory council member Amir Hossain Amu MP was given the charge of Dhaka south city while advisory council member Tofail Ahmed MP given the charge of Dhaka north city. Two general secretaries of two city corporations were made member secretaries of these coordination committees.
Besides, several central leaders and MPs were included in the committees. AL, however, did not officially announce these two committees. The members of the committees hold meetings almost every day on the strategies of city polls.
We find the EC's decision very logical, they said, adding that we want to add that only barring the ministers and MPs from engaging in election activities won't guaranty free and fair polls. The authorities have to ensure a congenial environment so that the voters can go to the centres without fear and cast their votes, they added.
The candidates name their polling agents for the sake of transparency. But the opposition candidates could not enjoy this facility during the elections in the recent past. Their agents were either barred to go to the centre or have been forced out, they said and added the 2015 city polls were farcical.
"The sad reality is that they could not ensure people's right to vote. The EC has almost no credibility and this is their time to earn back public trust," said Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder at a recent workshop.
He said, "He does not want to see a repetition of the polls in Gazipur, Khulna or Barishal city corporations. The whole country feels so, too."