Eminent citizens yesterday said the Election Commission (EC) was not performing in line with its constitutional duty, and that it has created scope for tainting the process of the upcoming polls.
They pointed at the EC's inadequate steps to deal with pre-election violent incidents and said this could lead to a questionable election on December 30 and post-election crisis.
The observations came from a seminar oprganised by Centre for Governance Studies (CGS), an organisation working for good governance, at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies auditorium in the capital.
The seminar, on “The Challenges of Electoral Integrity in Bangladesh”, is part of CGS' series of events on the polls, featuring experts from various fields including good governance campaigners, political and security analysts, and former diplomats.
Referring to challenges for a peaceful election, Barrister Manzoor Hasan, executive director of Centre for Peace and Justice at Brac University, said the EC should equitably distribute 'space' to political parties so that voters can cast votes freely and fairly.
Presenting a paper on the topic, he said the EC itself becomes the 'interim government' prior to the election and it should take a pro-active role in running the administration.
Former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hussain said against complaints of violent incidents, the EC could have applied article 91E of the Representation of the People Order-1972.
The article empowers the EC to cancel candidature of any candidate, upon finding involvement of them or their agent or any other person on their behalf in such incidents.
Sakhawat also said a big challenge before the incumbent government is to prove that an “unquestionable election” can be held under an elected government and with continuation of the parliament.
“This is the time to establish it,” he said, adding if such thing does not happen then “we have to go back to square one.”
Addressing the event as guest of honour, former adviser to caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan said based on its performance till date, it can be said that the EC has failed.
He said the continuation of parliament without any session means 350 parliamentarians are receiving salaries and taking other benefits, including demonstrating their influence.
It is waste of state wealth, he said.
Former inspector general of police M Enamul Huq said the EC has to ensure that voters are casting votes peacefully and returning home safely on the polls day, to ensure that the election is credible.
Criticising EC's role over violent incidents, former secretary AH Mofazzal Karim said those who bear the responsibility to tackle such incidents should have taken adequate actions.
Election observer and Chief Executive Officer of Brotee Sharmeen Murshid said strengthening EC's capacity have been recommended for over 20 years now. It reflects that the proper mechanism has stopped somewhere, she said.
Ganosamhati Andolon Chief Coordinator and independent candidate Zonayed Saki said a 'battle' has been going on, which could have minimised by the state. However, it has failed to do so and rather become a 'weapon' of a side, he said.
CGS President M Ataur Rahman said the electoral process is a 'cycle', and each stage of it is important for credible polls.
Former chief information commissioner Muhammad Zamir said whichever political party wins the polls, post-electoral days will be critical for the country.