Loan defaulters' polls bid over
Loan defaulters will not get any opportunity of becoming eligible to contest in the upcoming upazila and parliamentary polls by rescheduling their loans, although the new electoral laws allow them to become eligible by rescheduling the loans within specific timeframes before submissions of applications for candidacies.
They will be deprived of the opportunity since the timeframes provided by the new electoral laws for taking advantage of it are already over for the upcoming elections, as the laws are being promulgated too late.
Loan defaulters were allowed to contest in elections in the past through rescheduling of loans anytime prior to the dates of filing applications for candidacies.
But this time around, the timeframes stipulated in the new electoral laws for rescheduling bank loans taken by aspirant candidates have already expired before the promulgation of the laws, shutting the door on defaulters' chances to remedy their ineligibility.
According to the Representation of the People's Ordinance (RPO) 2008, if a person has a record of defaulting on loan payments within a period of six months prior to the submission of application for candidacy then that person will not be eligible for candidacy in the upcoming parliamentary poll, and in the Upazila Parishad Ordinance 2008 the timeframe for the same provision is one year.
The upazila parishad law was promulgated in June this year and elections to the local government tier are expected to start in the latter part of October, leaving no time for loan defaulting aspirant candidates to become eligible for candidacy.
Similarly since RPO 2008 is still awaiting promulgation after being approved by the cabinet last Sunday and since the parliamentary election is expected to be held by the year end, loan defaulters with electoral aspirations will not get the opportunity for making themselves eligible for candidacy in that election either.
Legal experts and senior officials of the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat however are skeptical about proper implementation of the stringent restrictions due to the time constraint loan defaulters will face in remedying their disqualifications because of the delay in promulgating the laws.
They fear legal challenges from loan defaulting aspirant poll candidates.
Loan defaulting upazila and parliamentary poll aspirants will not have the respective one year and six months required for rescheduling their loans for becoming eligible for candidacies.
The time constraint issue in relation to the upcoming parliamentary election was raised at a meeting of the council of advisers on last Sunday, but the meeting decided to keep the timeframe for disqualification unchanged, a meeting source said.
Taking the advantage of the existing election law, a large number of loan defaulters used to contest in parliamentary polls in the past through rescheduling their loans, often even a day before submitting their applications for candidacies, while upazila elections have not been held in the last 18 years.
Asked to comment on the legal quagmire, eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik said the new electoral laws seem to impose the restrictions in ways so no loan defaulter may contest in the polls through rescheduling of their loans.
But he added that it might be difficult to implement the restrictions in the upcoming upazila and parliamentary polls if the provisions are challenged in courts for not providing the stipulated opportunity to loan defaulters for remedying their disqualifications.