Poll symbol allocation in a shambles
A lack of appropriate guidelines and coordination between the Election Commission (EC) and returning officers (RO) yesterday created confusions over allocating election symbols to the candidates of the ensuing parliamentary polls.
ROs of a few constituencies refused to allocate the symbols agreed by the components of the two major electoral alliances to their candidates even after the candidates showed letters from the alliance chiefs that allowed them to use those symbols.
The problem was detected when ROs found it difficult to identify alliance candidates as neither the Awami League (AL) nor the BNP did provide the EC with lists of their candidates to get the alliances' electoral symbols.
Leaders of the components of the two alliances rushed to the EC and officials at the EC Secretariat had to contact the ROs over phone to resolve the confusion.
In the late afternoon, the EC issued a circular amending a previous one and asking ROs to allocate symbols to those who submit letters of permission for using electoral symbols of parties that lead the alliances.
A candidate of a political party will not get the party's electoral symbol if the party requests the ROs to allocate its symbol to the candidate nominated by its alliance partners, says the circular hurriedly faxed to the ROs.
Before that the ROs acted as per the previous circular issued Thursday night and allocated electoral symbols to candidates of both the AL and BNP and their alliance partners in the same constituencies.
Electoral symbol boat, for example, was allocated to AL-nominated candidate Monwar Hossain Chowdhury of AL and plough to Ali Mahbub Talukder of Jatiya Party (JP) in Gaibandha-4 constituency although the two parties agreed that the JP nominee would contest from the parliamentary seat as alliance candidate.
Party symbols were also allocated to both AL and JP nominees in Habiganj-2, Munshiganj-3, Gaibandha-5, Kurigram-4, Rangpur-4 and 5 and Sirajganj-2.
Similarly, the ROs allocated sheaf of paddy to BNP nominee Masud Arun and scales to Samiruddin of Jamaat-e-Islami in Meherpur-1 although the BNP candidate is supposed to contest the polls as the four-party alliance candidate from the seat.
Amid this situation, JP Chairman HM Ershad talked to AL chief Sheikh Hasina over telephone and sent two senior party leaders to talk to her in the afternoon to resolve the problem.
The ROs also refused to allocate boat to grand alliance candidate in Dhaka-8 Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon although he submitted the AL chief's letter that requested election officials to allocate the AL electoral symbol to Menon.
Immediately after receiving Menon's complaint, the EC officials contacted the RO concerned and asked him to allocate boat to him.
Abdul Latif Nezami, secretary general of BNP-led alliance component Islami Oikya Jote, and Hasanul Haque Inu, president of AL-led alliance component Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, also rushed to the EC Secretariat with similar complaints.
The EC Secretariat received many such lists from the offices of ROs by yesterday afternoon and EC Joint Secretary Rafiqul Islam told reporters that the number of such constituencies might be around 100.
Officials at the EC Secretariat expected the problem to be solved by last night.