Is the media at fault?
The Election Commission has now made the media a whipping boy to counter widespread criticism for its failure to hold the Union Parishad elections in a free, fair and peaceful manner.
In a media release on Monday, it said "misleading discussion" about the EC is going on in some newspapers and TV talk shows.
Why has the EC been a subject for discussion during the ongoing UP polls?
Incidents of large scale electoral irregularities including capturing polling stations and stuffing ballot boxes took place in the two phases-elections to 1,364 UPs held on March 22 and 31.
Numerous incidents of violence have left 33 people dead in election related clashes.
But on both days after polling hour, the EC claimed that there were "some sporadic incidents of violence" and "the voting was peaceful in most of the centres."
Incidents of widespread violence and irregularities in last two phases have triggered fear of more violence in the remaining elections to around 3,000 more UPs. The fairness of the elections to these is also uncertain.
The way the elections were held has triggered a huge outcry. For all the incidents that occurred during the election and for its failure to ensure free and fair elections, the EC has been facing blistering criticisms from the media, the civil society, political parties, election experts, and a cross-section of the people.
Under such a situation, the EC on Monday launched the counterattack on media, terming the discussion about the EC as "misleading."
The allegation is, however, wholesale in nature. The EC did not specify any report or talk show that in its opinion is misleading. It could not rebut any of the news reports or contents of talk shows. The way the election was held has made it difficult for the EC to defend the polls.
So, it has opted for the usual path of blaming the media to divert people's attention. In the past, whenever organisations and top officials failed to deliver on their mandates and their failures were exposed by the media, those organisations and officials blamed the media and tried to make it the whipping boy. They could not succeed in their efforts as people were aware of the real situation.
This time too, people are aware of the nature of the UP elections. So, blaming the media will never yield any benefit for the EC.
Instead of blaming the media, the EC should take media reports on irregularities into cognisance and take necessary steps to correct them. There have been instances in the past when the EC and the CEC in particular, took media criticism seriously and took corrective measures. This helped the situation significantly.
The EC should keep it in mind that media is not their opponent. The media will keep doing its own jobs no matter whether the EC likes it or not. The media is committed to serving the people. And the EC is a people's institution. So, people have the right to know how the EC is functioning.
In its statement Monday, the EC described some of the measures it had taken during the two phases- elections. Postponing elections to 102 polling stations in two phases, releasing three upazila nirbahi officers and four officers in charge of police from election duties and transferring them were among the measures. But the actions were too weak to affect the large scale deterioration of the situation.
It has, however, pledged that it would take necessary measures to ensure free and fair elections to the remaining UPs.
But based on its performance in the last two years, the EC's promise appears as mere rhetoric.
Incidents of large scale violence and irregularities including capturing polling stations took place in the three phases-elections to the upazila parishads in early 2014, three city corporations--Dhaka and Chittagong in April and municipality polls in December 2015. The police and local administration in many areas in those polls seemed to be helpless in front of violent ruling party men.
But after the close of voting, the EC every time claimed the elections were "peaceful except for some sporadic incidents." The EC's continued defence of flawed elections diminishes people's hopes for fair elections and electoral system.
If the EC now wants to restore people's confidence, it will not be wanting of authority.
The constitution permits it to take any measures necessary for the sake of free and fair elections.
It can cancel an election at any stage if it finds the election was faulty and also can cancel candidature on grounds of gross electoral anomalies.
The government is also constitutionally obliged to provide all assistance to the EC in this regard.
If the EC feels shaky and helpless in spite of such a strong mandate and authority to hold free and fair polls and blame the media for its failure to perform, people's hope for good elections will remain a distant dream. And the present leadership in the EC will be held responsible for their failure to ensure people's voting rights.