Election commission plays crucial role in organizing free, fair and neutral poll. It also contributes to maintaining political stability and economic augment in any country. Election is the foundation of democracy. The Rakib leaded EC had failed organizing free fair and participatory election though he said in his last press conference that he was success in his responsibility and holding fair election for the interest of country. January 5 one-sided election where 153 lawmakers were elected unopposed in 2014 was a black spot in the political arena of Bangladesh. The commission held City Corporation, municipality, upazila parishad and union parishad elections. Most of the polls were infected by violence and irregularities and vote rigging. In most cases, the EC neither investigated the incidents nor took any legal action against the offenders.
In this case, formation of election commission has attracted people’s attention. The Honorable President Abdul Hamid formed a search committee consisting of six members and Headed by Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, after holding talks with 31 political parties on EC formation.
The search panel includes Justice Obaidul Hassan, a High Court judge; Muhammad Sadique, chairman of Bangladesh Public Service Commission; Masud Ahmed, comptroller and auditor general of Bangladesh; Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam, trustee board member of Transparency International Bangladesh and teacher of Dhaka University; and Shireen Akhter, pro-vice chancellor of Chittagong University.
This search panel was controversial and not politically impartial. Opposition party BNP lead alliance accused that the members of search panel were not politically neutral. Besides this the head of search panel Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain was also the head of the last search panel who proposed kazi Rakib Uddin as chief election commissioner and then president Zillur Rahman made him CEC.
The search panel have taken suggestions from civil society. They suggested the search committee pick competent, non-partisan, wise and conscientious people for constituting the five-member Election Commissioner who have clean image, administrative skills, and the strength to carry out the duty.
Search committee requested 31 political parties to propose five names each for the posts of CEC and commissioners. The panel then shortlisted 20 names from 125 names proposed by 26 political parties. Finally, search panel proposed the names of Nurul Huda and ex-cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder for the CEC post. In 2012, the then search committee proposed the name of Ali Imam Majumder for the CEC post. Then president chosen Kazi Rakib Uddin as CEC. However, Former secretary KM Nurul Huda has been chosen to lead the next Election Commission. President also appointed four election commissioners including one woman for the first time. They are Mahbub Talukder, former additional secretary; Md Rafiqul Islam, ex-secretary; Begum Kabita Khanam, former district and session’s judge; and Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury.The name of Mahbub was suggested by the BNP while the name of Kabita khanum was proposed by the Awami league.
In the formal reaction of main opposition party the BNP-led 20-party alliance said the new Election Commission is the reflection of the prime minister’s liking. A “controversial government official” has been appointed as the chief election commissioner (CEC). It would not be possible for the new commission to perform its duties fairly, inculpated BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. He claimed that the commission chief was an organizer of Janatar Mancha (people’s platform). A platform which was against the then BNP government, in 1996.
In addition to, new CEC is disputed for various reasons. He conceded that he was involved in student politics when he was studying in Dhaka University. He confessed that he was posted leader of fazlul Haque Muslim hall student league. In 2001, BNP, obligatory retired him for the connection with janatar mancho (people’s platform). Though he rejected this blame. He said that He was posted as deputy commissioner of Camilla at that time. “How can I join the Janatar Mancha in Dhaka? But ex-secretary Mofazzal Karim claimed that for the linking with janatar mancha he was punished. He regot his job in the reign of Awami league in 2009. After his appointment, he was felicitated by local Awami league leader in own region. So it is certain evidence that he was not out of controversy and it is mostly true that he is ideologically and politically pro Awami league person. But CEC intended to forget past and wanted to commence his new responsibility with the help of political parties and civil society.
Awami League ally party Bangladesh Tariqat Federation can consider itself very lucky at the moment. Three members of the new Election Commission, including the chief election commissioner, have been picked from the list given by the party.
Election experts and civil society opine that it is a trick of AL. because Tariqat federation is an unknown, small and value less party in political arena and in the people of Bangladesh. Their proposed person selected as CEC It is unbelievable and farcical. So it is open secret that AL proposed their name by their (AL) ally party Tariqat federation. If AL proposed person appointed as CEC then it generated distrust to government and it would made contention.
However, president has failed to form a neutral election commission who can hold a free, fair and participatory election in future. It is often sure that Huda commission will follow the indicated path of Rakib commission. Now the people of Bangladesh want terror, hijacking, Centre occupying free election which will be acceptable to foreign and local election observatory organization and thus, people will get an elected and welfare government.
By confessing difficulties after taking oath, the newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said that their main challenge would be holding a free, fair and inclusive election. Former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hussain said, “In our country, a culture has been developed that fairness of elections depends on how much interference comes from the ruling party. So, it’s a challenge for the new Election Commission to have the laws enforced strictly for holding a fair election “in 1991, 1996 and 2001, the national election under caretaker government was fair and free. But from 2008 election, government interfering in polling system has reached in acute level in our country. So it would not be able to hold free, fair and acceptable polls.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Shushashoner Jannoy Nagorik (Shujan) said that The CEC and other commissioners definitely have the capability to run the EC in a proper way. For proving their capability and impartiality, we have to wait till 2018. Before this some local elections will be held this month by-elections to different chairmen and vice chairmen posts of 11 upazilas, by-polls to 4 municipalities and elections to three more upazilas. Parliamentary by-polls to Gaibandha-1 constituency is expected to be held in this month. Again, the by-elections to Sunamganj-2, the constituency that has vacant after the death of Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta, and the election to Camilla City Corporation would take place soon.
The main challenge of EC is to recover the reputation of election commission and achieving public trust by holding a free, fair and participatory election. These elections would give people an idea about the competency and credibility of the new CEC and his team.
However, fair election totally depends on ruling government’s honest mentality. If EC wants to hold fair election it will be impossible unless government help EC. So it is responsibility of AL to help the election commission by not interfering their decision making and holding a free, fair and participatory election in 2018.
Writer is a student of the Department of Sociology at the University of Dhaka.