EC to redraw outline of constituencies
The Election Commission (EC) yesterday announced a plan for redrawing the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies in 61 districts of the country based on densities of population in an effort to maintain a consistency in the number of voters for each seats.
According to the EC guidelines for redrawing the constituencies, the number of parliamentary seats for urban areas will significantly increase, particularly for city corporation areas, while rural areas are set to witness a decrease in the number of seats representing them.
Each of the 300 newly demarcated constituencies will be made up of over 4 lakh people as the 2001 population census report says the enumerated population of the country stood at over 12.3 crore at the time of the census while the total population including the heads not counted was estimated at 13 crore.
Urban areas will have more seats representing them in the parliament due to a massive migration of the population especially to metropolitan cities for employment in the past decade.
For instance, Dhaka City Corporation areas with a population of around one crore is likely to have over 20 constituencies instead of the current eight.
"The urban areas will have more seats. If Dhaka City Corporation areas get 20 or more seats according to the laws, we will have nothing to do," Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday said in a news briefing announcing the plan for redrawing the constituencies.
"One of our constitutional tasks is to redraw the constituencies following every population census. We have to do it now since the Census Report 2001 was published recently," the CEC said.
The three hill tracts districts will however continue to be considered three separate constituencies without bringing any change to them, despite changes in their populations, if any. Some other thinly populated districts will however have at least two constituencies in each of them.
Spelling out the plan for redrawing the constituencies in line with
the much talked about electoral roadmap, the CEC said the process will start this month with an aim to complete the job in June.
"Actually, the task of redrawing the constituencies can be completed in a month if we don't face any objection to it. But we guess many people will raise objections which we will have to resolve," CEC Huda said.
"The number of registered voters in each current constituency, for example, varies from as low as 1,04,049 in a constituency in Narayanganj, to more than six times that number in a couple of constituencies in Dhaka. This disparity in numbers of voters among the constituencies is not acceptable for the functioning of a truly democratic system," the CEC argued.
Asked whether the massive undertaking will hamper maintaining the EC's course on the electoral roadmap announced by itself, stipulating to hold the polls by December this year, the CEC said the plan for redrawing the constituencies is not a new one since the roadmap was drawn in last July incorporating the plan.
"I have no doubt in my mind about holding the parliamentary polls within the timeframe announced. But how can I read the minds of the people and know whether they have doubts," CEC Huda said replying to a query.
He said the government high ups always inquire about the progress of the preparation for holding the stalled ninth parliamentary polls.
"The government high ups want to know how quickly the election can be held. We will proceed for holding the polls as soon as we are ready," Huda said.
The Constitution of Bangladesh assigns the responsibility to the EC for delimiting the boundaries of constituencies for the purpose of elections to the parliament. The Delimitation of Constituencies Ordinance 1976 requires redrawing of the boundaries of constituencies after each census.
The 2001 census report was published only recently, meaning the boundaries have not been redrawn in this decade. Earlier, the constituencies were redrawn in 1973, 1979, 1984 and in 1995 on limited scales.
"Because only minor changes were brought to the boundaries in the last 30 years, the existing constituencies vary dramatically in their densities of populations," the CEC said in the briefing in the EC Secretariat conference room.
The delimitation ordinance identified three criteria for redrawing the constituencies --- population, administrative convenience, and keeping the administrative units intact.
The EC said the constituencies will be redrawn using computerised Geographic Information System (GIS). Assistance will be sought from the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information System, and from Local Government Engineering Department in exchange for payment, and the hired experts will also train the EC staff to develop the commission's capacity for running the system in the future, the written work plan of the commission says.
After the preparation will be complete, the EC will redraw the boundaries of the constituencies between March and April. In May, it will undertake a public consultation to solicit comments on the provisional new boundaries, and in June it will finalise the new boundaries and prepare a final report on it.
The CEC said the EC will disclose the tentative numbers of constituencies for specific districts next week.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
Asked whether the EC will hold the election amid the state of emergency, the CEC said the commission has yet to decide on the matter, and it does not know either what the government's plan is.
"I am now studying the state of emergency to know about it in detail, whether and how it affects political processions or meetings for election purposes. I also suggested the two other election commissioners to study it," the CEC added.
"Don't worry…we will do whatever is better for the nation," CEC Huda said replying to another query.