Election Commission's dialogue plans
The Election Commission has made a good move toward re-energising its polls-related programme. By informing the country that it plans to begin consultations with political parties on September 12 (in the expectation of course that the ban on indoor politics will have been lifted by that date), it has given a new spurt to its goal of holding free, fair and transparent elections before the end of the year 2008. We welcome the announcement and at the same time hope that the EC will stay focused on its programme. The dates announced must be kept unchanged as far as possible.
We cannot but note, though, that everything the EC plans to do relates necessarily to how soon the ban on indoor politics is lifted or relaxed. Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda remains hopeful that the ban will go before the dialogue between the parties and the EC gets underway. His expectations are also those of the nation as a whole, which is why we urge the government to move expeditiously towards creating an enabling political environment through doing away with the ban on indoor politics. If, however, the government has certain reservations about lifting the ban or feels that some minimal restrictions must accompany a lifting of the ban on indoor politics, it must seriously consider raising them with the political parties in order for a solution to be arrived at. By its very nature, indoor politics is itself a restrictive affair. Making it more restrictive may defeat the very purpose of lifting it. Another component of the EC's plan involves the inner working mechanism of the parties themselves. For its dialogue plan to be successful, the EC has to ensure that those who speak to it on behalf of their parties have a truly representative character and are fully involved with the decision-making apparatus in the parties and therefore have the mandate to decide on the reform proposals. It is extremely important that the EC's plans create the conditions that will allow politicians to initiate discussions on such plans at different layers within their respective party structures. The government must realise in its own interest that the parties must be in a position to own the plans if they are to pay off. Any sidetracking of the decision-making mechanism of the parties will have negative consequences, with the reforms agenda within the parties threatening to become a casualty.
In the next few days, let the necessary confidence-building measures be taken in order for the Election Commission to implement its plans in the larger interest of the nation.