A proper documentation of testimonies of “irregularities” during the 11th parliamentary election is required for upholding democratic practices, said speakers at a discussion yesterday.
They called for a fresh election under a neutral government, saying serious allegations of anomalies and misconduct have made the December 30 polls questionable.
Maulik Adhikar Surakkha Committee, a civil society platform, arranged the discussion titled “Eleventh Parliamentary Election: What to Do Next” at the capital's Jatiya Press Club.
Addressing the discussion, noted human rights activist Hamida Hossain said petitions have been filed by a number of opposition candidates over the polls and those are awaiting court hearings.
On the other hand, systematic and evidence-based documentation of testimonies of candidates and polling agents should be made, especially to generate public awareness at home and abroad, she said.
Hamida alleged that the Election Commission did not play its due role during the polls while police also acted unconstitutionally.
“I think the Election Commission we've got is not only weak but also very partisan.”
Eminent Economist Prof Anu Muhammad said comprehensive documentation over the polls irregularities was yet to be prepared.
At organisation levels, the Left Democratic Alliance held a mass hearing over polls irregularities while the Jatiya Oikyafront is expected to arrange a similar hearing soon which may reveal some information, he said.
Besides, newspapers and other media houses should make comprehensive documentation over the polls, he said.
Prof Anu also said previous polls that were held under non-partisan governments were not flawless.
“But what happened during the 2018 election was unprecedented,” he said, alleging that the ruling party “controlled all institutions to arrange the election.”
Eminent jurist Dr Shahdeen Malik said the extent of rigging during the polls has destroyed the country's election system and also put the state structure in a vulnerable position.
He called for holding a “meaningful election” and for this stressed the need for holding discussions among political parties.
He also said the country's political parties should practise democracy within the parties in all activities, including choosing new leadership through councils.
Serious evidence of rigging and some unprecedented incidents during electioneering made the polls hardly credible, said Prof Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University law department.
This also harmed the possibility of a representative parliament as per the constitution, rebuilding of democracy and ensuring political stability, he said, while reading out a written statement.
The whole process also seriously questioned the EC's will and capacity for holding peaceful election under a partisan government, he said.
“There is no alternative to holding a free, fair and neutral election soon for the sake of the constitution, democracy and people's rights,” he said.
Renowned photographer Shahidul Alam said the country's constitution guarantees freedom of speech for every citizen.
People should raise their voice rightfully although this may seem problematic to others, he said.
Despite a shrinking space, a small number of people are raising their voice, he said, adding others should create scope for them.
Moderating the discussion, women rights activist Shireen Haq said the EC has announced that the upcoming upazila elections would be held in the manner of the parliamentary polls.
It left little to expect from the EC, she said.
Prof CR Abrar of DU International Relations department said irregularities centring on the 11th parliamentary polls have taken place as the election itself was a “farce”.
A fair election was necessary to overcome the present situation, he said.