People of Bangladesh have lost faith in the Election Commission as voting system of the country has fallen apart and the democracy has been made non-functional, eminent citizens said yesterday.
Attending a webinar on "Democracy, Election and Election Commission", they also said that the citizens lost interest in voting as they believe their votes would make no difference to election results.
Civil society platform Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) organised the webinar.
At the webinar, former justice Abdul Matin, local government expert Prof Tofail Ahmed, Dhaka University Prof Asif Nazrul and former bureaucrat Abdul Latif Mondal proposed restoration of poll-time non-partisan caretaker government or neutral government or interim government to bring back the voters' confidence.
They made the proposal saying free, fair, and participatory election was not possible under any partisan election time government.
The caretaker government system was introduced in 1996 through the 13th amendment to the constitution.
The system of non-party caretaker government has seen the holding of three successful parliamentary elections in 1996, 2001, and 2008 that were considered free and fair by both local and foreign observers.
The caretaker government system was abolished through constitution's 15th amendment in 2011.
Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar alleged that partial attitude and dishonesty of current Election Commission has curtailed the voting rights of many people, which created lack of confidence among voters.
"Voting system of Bangladesh has fallen apart, that has made the democracy in the country non-functional. Apart from that politics is almost opponent less. Main opposition parties cannot avoid responsibilities. All these have created anger and frustration among many citizens," he said.
Election is a constitutional and peaceful process of transferring power. Shutting the door of handing over power peacefully is an ominous result of non-functional democratic system, he added.
"In this condition, possibilities of unconstitutional and violent power transfer can be created, which is never expected," he said.
Former election commissioner Sakhawat Hussain opined, "Restoration of fruitful election is tough job. Activities of all political parties have made the work much tougher. I support the thoughts of many that government can salvage the election system."
Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor of political science at Illinois State University (ISU), doubted whether the EC can act independently.
Free, fair and acceptable election is impossible unless the government and specially ruling parties desire for that, he added.
Lawyer Shahdeen Malik said, "Observing recent elections, I think that we went back to elections that were held in 1980s. Elections and democracy are gradually becoming a matter of imagination."
Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder said people of the country are almost in condition to forget what an election is, what a result is.
"We see less voter turnout as the country is moving toward a depoliticisation."
Columnist Syed Abul Maksud said that topics like election and democracy have already been turned into a content of "Kabigaan" (light songs in the form of questions and answers from dwelling singers).
"Democracy is passing Ice Age… Election commissioners have now become people of disabled conscience," he added.
Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyer Association (BELA) Syeda Rizwana Hassan said, "Farce in the name of elections is eventually curtailing the power of citizens."
Academic CR Abrar said that the EC has turned into a commission that sends citizens' rights into exile.
Journalist Abu Sayeed Khan, Shujan's central coordinator Dilip Kumar Sarkar and others also spoke at the webinar which was presided over by Shujan's President Hafizuddin Khan.