Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday said the overall atmosphere ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election was “satisfactory”.
Huda made the comment a day after one of the election commissioners, Mahbub Talukdar, walked out of an election preparatory meeting for what he said was not being allowed to speak on how to hold the polls in a free, fair, and inclusive manner.
Mahbub claimed he wanted to speak on five issues, including how to use the army in the election, find ways to ensure level-playing field for all parties and increase EC's capabilities to exercise its power, at the commission's meeting. The CEC and three other election commissioners avoided talking to the media that day.
Talking to reporters at the Nirbachan Bhaban in Agargaon yesterday, Huda said based on information collected from field-level EC officials, he was satisfied with the election atmosphere.
Replying to a query, he said even if there was any disagreement among the election commissioners, it would not impact the polls.
Asked about the note of dissent submitted to the commission by Mahbub, he said, “I don't want to talk about the incident that happened yesterday. It has been published in newspapers and there is nothing more to talk about.”
Asked about bringing changes to the electoral code of conduct, the CEC said there would be some changes and the EC would sit in a meeting to discuss the issue.
Huda made the comments after a view-exchange meeting on election preparations with regional and district election officials. All the 10 regional and 64 district election officials, as well senior officials from the Election Commission Secretariat, attended the daylong meeting at the Nirbachan Bhaban.
Apart from Huda, the four other election commissioners -- Mahbub, Rafiqul Islam, Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury and Kabita Khanam -- also spoke at the meeting.
The commission instructed the regional and district election officials not to pick any polling official, including a presiding officer, on political considerations.
It also asked its top level field officials to carry out election duty neutrally and without being influenced by any quarters, one of the meeting participants told The Daily Star, wishing not to be named.
This is the first time the EC held such a meeting with its top level field officials. It came around two and a half months before the parliamentary polls.
At the meeting, 10 regional and 20 district election officials placed various demands before the EC for holding the polls in a more efficient way.
One of the demands was to appoint the regional and district election officials as returning officers along with the deputy commissioners. They said they were the ones who “knew election activities better”.
They also suggested that the EC make better arrangements so that voting secrecy remains intact while casting votes.
During parliamentary election, the deputy commissioner of a district is appointed as the returning officer (RO) to conduct the polls in the district. For Dhaka and Chattogram metropolitan areas, divisional commissioners are appointed as the ROs.
According to the Representation of the People Order, 1972, returning officers have the jurisdiction to prepare a panel of election officials, comprising a presiding officer, assistant presiding officers and polling officers, for each polling centre.
Each polling centre will have one presiding officer. Besides, there will be an assistant presiding officer and two polling officials at each polling booth, according to the RPO.
A fair election largely depends on the role of the polling officials.
According to EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed, there would be around 40,200 polling centres, including around 2,61,200 polling booths, in the upcoming election.
The polling centres would require over 7.5 lakh polling officials, said sources at the EC Secretariat.
According to the RPO, the RO under no circumstances would appoint members of any political party as a polling official.
Anyone who did a job or is now doing a job under a candidate in a constituency also can't be a polling official in that particular constituency, according to the RPO.
Besides, any “controversial” officials or staffers or teachers would also not be eligible to be appointed as polling official.
The RPO also said the RO would recruit polling officials from government, semi-government, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, and non-government organisations in his or her area.
Speaking at yesterday's programme, commissioner Mahbub Talukdar said, “You [field level election officials] are the heart of the election field. The entire nation and the world are looking up to you. Holding a free and fair election is your sacred duty.”
Commissioner Rafiqul called upon the field level election officials to make the voter list 100 percent flawless.