Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday came down on Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar after the latter said level playing field was not being ensured for all in polls.
At a programme in the Nirbachan Bhaban, Mahbub said voter turnout dropped alarmingly whenever Electronic Voting Machines were used.
He also said local government elections have turned into "a model of irregularities" due to polls violence, grabbing of polling centres, and vandalism of EVMs.
Immediately after the election commissioner's speech ended, the CEC went straight on to the stage and started criticising Mahbub. All the other commissioners and senior EC officials were present at the event, organised to mark the National Voters' Day.
"Mahbub Talukdar is doing whatever he could to disgrace and undermine the Election Commission …. He does not work in the interest of the EC. He works to protect his own interests."
In his speech, Mahbub had said the staggered municipal polls were at its last stage. Besides, the union parishad elections will take place in phases from next month.
"Observing the trajectory of the [recent] local government elections, I believe that the level playing field required for a multi-party democracy is not being ensured in polls," he said.
The most surprising thing happened in Raozan municipality of Chattogram where the mayor and councillors were elected unopposed. So, all law enforcers and election officials were withdrawn. The same was noticed in the upazila elections in Raozan, he said.
"Better call it a selection, instead of an election," he said.
He also mockingly proposed that the "same model" could be followed across the country where everyone would be elected unopposed.
"This will save money and reduce violence. Besides, the Election Commission will not have to shoulder any responsibility. But if it happens, questions will, however, arise whether the Election Commission is anymore necessary ," Mahbub said.
He said a free and fair election would not be possible unless the entire electoral process went through a reform. Without the reform, the electoral management will become almost ineffective. In that case, the standard of the elections will go down even further, he said.
Mahbub said at first he was against the use of EVMs in elections but he changed his stance over several reasons. When the machines are used, no one can cast votes the night before the election, he said.
"But voter turnout is alarmingly decreasing in elections where EVMs are in use," he said.
Voter turnout was only 25.34 percent and 29.27 percent in the Dhaka north and south city corporations elections. It was 22 percent in Chattogram City Corporation polls.
Responding to the statement, KM Nurul Huda said, "It is Mahbub Talukdar's habit that he would bring a piece of paper out of his pocket and start speaking negatively about the commission. He has been doing this since the day he joined it. Today is no different.
"He [Mahbub] does not see an election where EVMs were used and the turnout was 85 percent … He has made some political remarks on the occasion of the National Voters' Day."
"Making such statements is possible after going through old papers and finding papers from a dustbin. There, however, lies a question … whether he [Mahbub] is performing his duties as a commissioner. Is he working for the implementation of the recommendations he is making?" he asked.
"He [Mahbub] does not work in the interests of the country's Election Commission. Rather he works to protect his own interests and fulfil his own motive. He is writing a book and he collects information for it," Nurul Huda said.
In the last couple of years, Mahbub Talukdar had spoken about various election irregularities. He even walked out of commission meetings and issued several notes of dissent over differences of opinion on various matters.
On several occasions in the past, Mahbub and Nurul Huda publicly differed on different issues.
Ahead of the last parliamentary polls in December 2018, the two engaged in a debate over level playing field in the national election.
On December 17, 2018, Mahbub said the level playing field was absent and the words -- level playing field -- had become meaningless.
The next day, expressing disagreement with Mahbub, the CEC in Rangamati said, "Mahbub Talukdar did not speak the truth. The overall election atmosphere is good."
Yesterday at the programme, three election commission officials Mohammad Alauddin, Yunus Ali and Rowshan Ara Begum were awarded Jatiya Nirbachan Padak for 2021.
VOTERS NUMBER NOW 11.17 CR
The number of the country's voters has now reached 11.17 crore after inclusion of some 19 lakh fresh voters in the voter list in the last one year, according to the Election Commission's updated electoral roll.
The EC in a statement disclosed the final updated voters' numbers on the occasion of the National Voter Day 2021.
Now the number of the total voters stands at 11,17,20,669 — 5,65,98,005 male and 5,51,22,223 females and 441 transgender voters, it said.