Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda has said “tough action” will be taken against those responsible if the June 26 election to Gazipur City Corporation is not held in a free and fair manner. His clarity and apparent sureness of intent is heart-warming. Sadly, it doesn't inspire much confidence given this commission's track record and rigging claims that had marred the last city corporation election. As some recent online polls suggest, the EC faces a credibility issue, and there is a lack of confidence in its ability and even willingness to eschew political influence. There is no denying that parallels would be drawn between the Khulna election and the imminent Gazipur election, as well as the three remaining city corporation elections slated for July 30. Whether those comparisons would be made in a favourable light depends entirely on how the EC chooses to function this time.
Conducting a fair election is by no means limited to the election-day performance. Recent trends in our electoral politics suggest a shift towards more subtle manoeuvres and tactics fashioned to eliminate competition well in advance of an election. The EC, therefore, must remain vigilant at all times and exercise the power bestowed upon it without bias. It must ensure that everyone has a fair chance at organising and participating in election-related activities. We welcome the statement by another commissioner that the EC doesn't want to tarnish its image by conducting a questionable election in Gazipur. Hopefully, its “tough action” will be directed as much to those responsible for likely electoral irregularities as to those potentially plotting to change the course of the election. With the national election due later this year, the stakes are high. The EC must address its credibility problem now and deliver on its promises.