UP polls from Mar 22

First time in partisan manner; voting in 6 phases

Elections to 752 union parishads, the biggest grassroots-level polls, will be held on March 22 on partisan lines for the first time.

More than 4,000 UPs will go to election in six phases till June, Election Commissioner Shah Nawaz said while announcing the polls schedule yesterday.

The last date of filing nominations is February 22, and those will be scrutinised by returning officers (RO) on February 23-24.

Candidates would be able to withdraw nominations by March 2 in the first phase of the polls, Shah Nawaz told reporters at his office at the Election Commission secretariat.

They will be allowed to start election campaigns after allocation of polls symbols on March 3, he said.

There are more than 4,500 union parishads, the lowest tier of the local government system. Of them, 4,275 will go to polls in six phases between March and June. Elections to the rest will be held later, said EC sources.

The EC came up with the schedule around one and a half months after the municipality polls. A total of 234 municipalities went to polls on December 30 last year.

The UP election is set to generate heat in the political landscape, as the ruling Awami League and opposition BNP will formally step into the battle of ballots along with other parties.

For the first time, the parties will be able to pick their grassroots leaders to vie for UP chairman posts with the party's electoral symbol “boat” and “sheaf of paddy”.

The new electoral code of conduct will offer some benefits to BNP leaders, as its Chief Khaleda Zia and all her party leaders will be able to participate in electoral activities and campaigns for party-nominated candidates.

But AL President Sheikh Hasina cannot do so, as being the prime minister she is enjoying government benefits. Like her, all the ministers and her party lawmakers are barred by the code of conduct from carrying out electoral activities for party nominated candidates.

According to the electoral code, individuals enjoying government benefits include the prime minister, the speaker, ministers, chief whip, whips, deputy speaker, deputy leader of the House, leader of the opposition, state ministers, deputy ministers, MPs and mayors of the city corporations.

A political party registered with the EC has to nominate a single candidate for the post of chairman in each UP. If any party nominates multiple candidates in one UP, candidacy of all aspirants nominated by that party in the UP will be cancelled, say the electoral laws.

Political parties willing to contest the polls will send letters to the ROs, mentioning the names of party-authorised persons, who will pick the candidates within seven days of announcement of the polls schedule. Copies of the letters will have to be sent to the EC, according to the rules.

Meanwhile, several hours after announcing the schedule, the EC issued letters to all the 40 registered political parties, asking them to comply with the rules.

In the last municipality polls, AL Chief Sheikh Hasina attested the party-nominated mayoral aspirants, while BNP Joint Secretary General Mohammad Shajahan did the job on behalf of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

Talking to reporters, Shah Nawaz said the commission would take all necessary steps to hold the elections in a free and fair manner.

He said action would be taken against polls officials and law enforcers if found guilty of negligence in carrying out duties.

The commissioner also said journalists would be allowed to enter polling stations but they cannot stay inside the stations for a long time at a stretch.