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MPs can join city polls campaigns

EC decides; to send the proposal to law ministry for vetting soon
Injunction on Bangladesh national election schedule

In line with the ruling Awami League's recommendations, the Election Commission yesterday decided to allow lawmakers to participate in city corporation election campaigns.

“The Commission has approved changes to 11 clauses of the existing City Corporation (Election Code of Conduct) Rules 2016,” said EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed.

He was talking to reporters after an EC meeting at the Nirbachon Bhaban in the capital. Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda presided over the meeting, which made the decision.

A top BNP leader and an election expert decried the move, saying it would go in favour of the ruling party.

But the EC secretary said, “Members of parliament don't hold any office, don't use any government vehicle and government officials are not attached with them.... They also don't hold any office of profit.... So, the Commission recommended that MPs be excluded from the Very Important Person (VIP) definition. They can take part in city corporation election campaigns." 

However, lawmakers will not be able to use circuit houses or government rest houses during the campaign, as per the new amendment, he added.

The approved proposals will soon be sent to the law ministry for vetting, Helaluddin said.

Responding to a query, he said chances of implementing the amended code of conduct in the upcoming Gazipur City Corporation election was slim as the polls schedule has already been announced.

Responding to another question, he said as a registered political party, the AL too was a stakeholder of the Commission and that the decision was made after reviewing its proposals.

Contacted, Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said the concept of level-playing field will suffer a blow if MPs are allowed to take part in polls campaigns.

“MPs are very powerful in their areas and they allegedly have control over everything in their constituency. So their participation in the campaign will really tilt the election in favour of those they will campaign for,” he said.

BNP standing committee member Amir Khashru Mahmud Chowdhury said after closing political and democratic space, the government has closed the electoral space through the EC.

“Now there will be no election in the country as the election will be turned into a selection process. The present subservient Election Commission has sealed the path of holding a free, fair and impartial election through allowing MPs to carry out election campaigns,” he added.

An AL delegation, led by Prime Minister's Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, made the proposal to the EC on April 13, after the Commission announced the polls schedule of Khulna and Gazipur city corporation elections.

The AL delegation argued that allowing MPs to join the polls campaign would ensure a level-playing field for all candidates.

Following the proposal, the EC held the meeting on April 19 and formed a committee to evaluate the suggestion.

Earlier in 2015, a similar move by the EC, then headed by Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, drew huge flak. At the time, the Commission was mulling over changing the election code to allow ministers and MPs to join local election campaigns.