In Patuakhali-2 constituency, at least seven upazila- and union-level leaders and activists of AL have been allegedly appointed as election officials. This is in direct violation of the Election Commission's guidelines, which states that individuals whose neutrality is doubtful cannot be appointed as election officials. Yet, the opposition candidate of the constituency has urged the local administration for withdrawal of these officers—as of writing this no action has been taken. If the allegations are true—and they seem to be borne out by the facts—the EC must act decisively and withdraw these partisan officials for the sake of a credible election.
According to our reports, the appointees to these posts, including that of presiding officers, consist of a vice-president, a joint-secretary, an assistant publication secretary, a forest and environment affairs secretary, an organising secretary, and a member of various upazila- or municipality-level AL or Jubo League bodies. In at least one case, one of the appointees has also been called out for campaigning for the AL candidate in the constituency.
We have reported and editorialised multiple times in the recent past of anomalies such as this, from opposition candidates facing various barriers to campaigning to police officials openly campaigning for the ruling party—not to mention the spates of violence. It is not only the EC's credibility that is at stake with many of these issues remaining unaddressed; the free, fair and credible election we are all looking forward to is at stake too.
It is good to hear that the complaints about the appointments in Patuakhali-2 have been acknowledged and promises have been made about investigation and action. But, by this time it is evident that these discrepancies are not the exception. The EC should be the one upholding the codes of conduct and guidelines, not acting retrospectively in some of the cases.