It does not matter much to the Election Commission whether or not the polling is mired in widespread violence and irregularities. It has got some canned words for the nation at the end of polling. And it has kept defending the flawed elections in the same old way for the last two years.
This time too it made no exception. Despite widespread irregularities--like capturing of polling centres and stuffing ballot boxes and violence in the opening of the Union Parishad election on Tuesday, its chief Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad claimed that there were "some sporadic incidents of violence" and "the voting was peaceful in most of the centres."
Do people believe what the EC claimed? Does the EC itself now believe the claim after the CEC and other election commissioners watched reports broadcast by TV channels during the polling and read extensive reports with photographs in all national dailies yesterday? If they still stick to his claim, they must be in denial.
The magnitude of violence and irregularities has surpassed records of anomalies and clashes in the previous elections to local government bodies held in the last two years.
Incidents of large scale violence and irregularities including capturing polling stations took place in the three phases-elections to the upazila parishads in early of 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."
Defending such flawed elections by the EC keeps diminishing people's hope for fair elections and electoral system.
The way it stood by Tuesday's UP polls has made uncertain the fairness of the elections in the remaining UPs. So far, 712 UPs went to polls on Tuesday. Elections to 643 UPs are slated for March 31 and 681 UPs on April 23. Around 2,200 unions will go to polls in three more phases until June.
In all the controversial polls held in last two years, the Awami League men got landslide victories. But the flawed polls held since the one-sided parliamentary election on January 5, 2014 has dealt a severe blow to the country's electoral democracy, bulldozing people's voting rights.
The EC also appears to be helpless. Though the constitutional body enjoys great authority to ensure free and fair election, the authority could not be properly executed due to weakness in the leadership of the CEC and his colleagues.
Yet, it might deserve some sympathy for its helplessness.
Government political will is a must for holding free and fair elections, which was largely absent in the last two years.
Elections to five city corporations held under the current EC in 2013 have remained as shining examples of the government's political goodwill. The polls to city corporations of Gazipur, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet were largely free and fair. The government's role was lauded for this.
Due to the government's commitment to fair elections, ruling party men did not dare to resort to undue influence to manipulate the polls by capturing polling stations and stuffing ballot boxes.
The above examples prove the EC can not work in isolation. But the way the EC has kept justifying the flawed elections is nothing but denial of the truths. This will only keep eroding people's confidence in the EC and restoration of people's faith in it will be a Herculean task.