The Election Commission (EC) has planned to weaken further its power over political parties by allowing them to have associate bodies again and bypass grassroots recommendations for nominating candidates for parliamentary polls.
In its electoral reform proposals, recently sent to the law ministry, the EC has recommended political parties be allowed to have associate bodies of students, like in universities, and even professionals and employees of state-owned entities, like teachers and doctors.
It has also proposed that political parties would not have to nominate parliamentary polls candidates according to the recommendations of their grassroots units.
This provision was introduced in 2008 to instil democratic practice in the parties and stop nomination trading, as before that people with money and no political background could easily obtain party tickets.
In 2010, the Awami League-led government moved to re-empower the party parliamentary boards to pick any candidate, including those the grassroots' have not chosen.
But if the provision is withdrawn by amending the Representation of the People Order (RPO), money will rule the nomination game. The parliamentary boards of parties will be free to choose.
Now, violation of the above-mentioned rules could result in the cancellation of a party's registration with the EC.
"But after the scrapping of the punitive provisions, the Election Commission will have nothing to do if the political parties did not follow the rule for considering grassroots panels," former chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda told The Daily Star yesterday.
He had led the EC when the sweeping electoral reforms were made in 2008.
Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hussein, who was an election commissioner in the Huda-led EC, said if the provision was made ineffective, the culture of "nomination trading" would "definitely" return.
According to Huda and Sakhawat, the aim of the provision was to ensure democratic practice within political parties by empowering the grassroots levels.
Contacted over the phone, election commissioners Shah Newaz and Abu Hafiz said they could not recall what they had recommended in the proposal sent to the law ministry.
Election Commissioner Abdul Mubarak, however, confirmed that they had in fact made such proposals.
The Daily Star has obtained copies of the proposals.
If the RPO is amended in line with the proposals, registered political parties will also get back unlimited freedom to form organisations as their affiliated or associated bodies comprised of teachers and students of any educational institutions or the employees of any financial, commercial or industrial institution and of people in any profession.
In the 2008 reforms, it was made mandatory for a political party to include a provision in its charter imposing restriction on formation of any affiliated or associated bodies.
The aim of the move was to free educational and financial institutions from party politics.
After the enactment of the reforms, the Awami League, BNP and other political parties had to sever links with some of their associated bodies, like Chhatra League and Chhatra Dal and overseas wings of the parties, to register with the EC.
If the EC gets it way with the current reforms, a political party will not need members' elections to its committees at any level, not even its central committee.
Moreover, a party will not be required to achieve the goal of keeping 33 percent positions for women in all committees by the year 2020.
Ditching all the above, the EC has proposed to introduce a new provision which makes it mandatory for a registered political party to maintain a functional central office and a required number of administrative offices in districts and upazilas.
In defence of the move, the EC in its proposal said the new provision would contribute to bringing dynamism in politics.