Chattogram happens to be the second largest city in the country and not everything is going well in terms of the peaceful, fair and transparent conduct of elections. Violence and inter-party clashes have marked the electioneering period since January 12, and the BNP-backed mayoral candidate's electoral campaigns have come under attack on two occasions since electioneering resumed. Party offices have been vandalised, allegedly by supporters of the opposing party, and rebel candidates have been attacked too. So far, two people have been killed. Serious apprehensions have been expressed by various citizens' groups regarding the conduct of the polls.
It is sad but true that what we have witnessed in the port city has not been any different from what we have seen take place in other areas of the country during the recent local elections. Despite assurances from relevant agencies, people have been killed, and politicking by other candidates has been made difficult by supporters of the ruling party candidates. In short, the level playing field that all participants demand and which the Election Commission (EC) promises to deliver is never delivered.
In the case of the port city polls, there are mixed reports about the effectiveness and the manner of addressing the various complaints filed by the candidates. Reportedly, nearly half the complaints lodged by mayor and councillor candidates have not been addressed by the EC. On the other hand, police personnel engaged by the Election Commission did not find proof of any wrongdoings regarding most of the complaints that have been addressed so far.
What was the logic behind lodging these FIRs by the EC, we wonder? We believe the EC and the magistrates under it are empowered to penalise violations of the code of conduct. Lodging FIRs don't resolve the issue in hand. It would help if the EC adjudicated on such issues that have direct bearings on the conduct of the elections. We feel that the EC is in effect passing the buck by lodging FIRs instead of doing what it is empowered to do. Has the EC been able to provide a level playing field? We wonder!