EC to warn candidates against party office use
The Election Commission (EC) yesterday finally decided to warn mayoral candidates against use of political party offices in their campaigns for the August 4 polls to four city corporations.
The newly promulgated code of conduct for electioneering bans use of political party offices for local government election campaigns.
The EC yesterday issued a circular instructing returning officers (RO) of the four city corporations and nine municipalities to file criminal cases against violators of the code of conduct in electoral campaigns that officially began yesterday amid a relaxed Emergency Powers Rules (EPR).
Meanwhile the EC today, for the first time in its history, begins facilitating electoral debates among mayoral candidates in the four city corporations, to be broadcast live by the state-run television and radio stations, starting with the candidates in Sylhet City Corporation. Voters will also be allowed to participate in the debates and ask the debating contestants questions on local issues, sources in the EC Secretariat said.
As party offices are frequently being used by the mayoral candidates for electioneering, the EC at a meeting decided to instruct them in writing to abide by the electoral code of conduct that slapped a total ban on use of candidates' political affiliations in campaigns for local government polls.
According to the electoral rules, a contender might lose candidacy in addition to being imprisoned and fined for violating the code of conduct.
The political parties' ongoing activities centring the August 4 local government polls including the recent soap opera of nominating partisan mayoral candidates, were also raised at the EC meeting, but the commission once again did not take any specific decision regarding whether it will formally ask the political parties to refrain from carrying out such activities, according to meeting sources.
Referring to a video footage broadcast by private television channels on Sunday night, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda raised the issue of use of political party offices by the mayoral candidates in their electoral activities.
The video footage showed Khairuzzaman Liton, Awami League (AL)-led 14-party coalition's mayoral nominee in Rajshahi City Corporation, addressing a gathering of his supporters on the premises of the party's city unit office.
Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain earlier told The Daily Star that use of political party offices for polls purposes is in clear violation of the electoral code of conduct.
According to the code of conduct, city corporation and municipality polls are absolutely non-partisan, and candidates are not allowed to use their political affiliations including the names of the parties they are affiliated with and portraits of any political leader in election campaigns.
But in line with their respective stances on local government polls, major political parties at central levels were either nominating candidates or have been asking grassroots level leaders to boycott the polls, since the announcement of the poll schedule on June 20.
AL-led 14-party finally nominated its mayoral candidates for the four city corporations, flouting the electoral code of conduct that does not allow political parties to do so.
On the other hand, BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami-led four-party alliance has been asking their grassroots level leaders to boycott the August 4 polls.
The EC however had remained silent over the violation of the electoral code of conduct with the excuse of creating an electoral atmosphere in the country first.
EC'S INSTRUCTIONS TO ROs
In the circular, the EC directed the ROs to form an adequate number of vigilance teams to strictly enforce the electoral code of conduct as electioneering began yesterday.
The relaxation of EPR allows candidates to hold rallies and bring out campaign processions in the four city corporation and nine municipality areas in line with the code of conduct.
The circular also directed the ROs to form committees to maintain law and order in the electoral areas.
According to the circular, the vigilance teams will monitor field level electioneering to find whether the code of conduct is being followed. The teams will also monitor whether the candidates are spending beyond the ceiling of campaign expenditure stipulated by the electoral law.
For violation of the electoral code of conduct, the vigilance teams will file cases with local police stations or criminal courts, according to the circular.
Any individual including candidates may also file complaints with the courts or police stations regarding violations of the code of conduct.
The EC also directed the ROs to convene meetings of candidates and their election agents to inform them about their responsibilities in following the electoral code of conduct.
Rajshahi City Corporation's electoral debate is scheduled for July 21, while in Khulna and Barisal city corporations the debates will be held on July 26 and July 30 respectively.