EC alone not responsible for holding fair election
Former chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday said the Election Commission was not solely responsible for holding a free, fair and credible election.
“There are many players here. Political parties also have a big responsibility to make an election fair,” he said.
The former CEC was talking to journalists after holding a two-and-a-half hour meeting with the EC in the city's Nirbachan Bhaban.
He called upon all political parties to participate in the next parliamentary polls to avoid any crisis and to stay away from the culture of boycotting elections.
“All political parties should participate in the next election under the present conditions and environment.”
The EC organised the meeting to know election experts' opinions about its preparation for the next national polls, likely to be held in December next year.
Shamsul Huda said the electoral system was largely affected due to boycott of the January 5, 2014 polls by many political parties. “So, the parties will have to stay alert this time around and they all should join the next election,” he said making an oblique reference to the BNP's boycott of the 2014 polls.
Out of the 26 invitees, 16 election experts, including former CECs and election commissioners, joined yesterday's meeting, with CEC KM Nurul Huda in the chair.
Five former CECs were invited to the meeting, but three of them didn't come.
EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said ex-CECs Mohammad Abu Hena and MA Aziz were sick and immediate past CEC Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed was abroad and that's why they could not join the talks.
Aziz had to resign on January 21, 2007 under pressure from the military-backed caretaker government while Rakibuddin was criticised for holding the 2014 polls amid boycott by many political parties.
Asked about the political parties' proposal on an election-time government, Shamsul Huda said the matter was subject to constitutional amendment.
“There will be no more caretaker government as an amendment has been made to the constitution in this regard. But you can't bring another amendment [to the constitution] due to time constraint if you are to arrange the next national election within the timeframe,” he told journalists.
The ex-CEC said they suggested the EC earn public confidence and strengthen the commission, particularly by developing its infrastructure and human resources, so that it can be strengthened as an institution.
Shamsul Huda said they discussed deploying army during the polls with the EC. “The army should have to be deployed under the existing legal framework. As there are executive and judicial magistrates, question remains whether the army will be given magistracy power.”
Former CEC Justice Md Abdur Rouf said government officials cannot hold a fair election as they are “politically biased”.
The election experts also asked the EC to take steps so that it can conduct future elections by appointing returning officers from its own staff.
CEC KM Nurul Huda in his introductory speech said, “In the past few days, we have sat with many stakeholders and we have taken notes of their important observations. Today, we feel relaxed to have you with us.”
“Your experience in conducting the previous elections is very valuable for us,” he added.
With yesterday's talks, the EC's three-month dialogue with different stakeholders came to an end.
The commission held dialogues with civil society members, media personalities, 40 registered political parties, including the Awami League and the BNP, election observers and women leaders since July 31.