April 2 by-polls
EVIDENTLY, the Election Commission is doing as much as it can to make the April 2 by-elections to seven constituencies free and fair through sending a letter to the Prime Minister's Office, requesting the ministers not to visit those constituencies during the elections. A similar letter has been sent to the Speaker and the Cabinet Division with a view to ensuring that the lawmakers and top government officials refrain from making such visits that might influence polling in some way or the other.
The EC's decision, we have to say, is based on a correct understanding of the ground reality which is that ministers and MPs have a track record of meddling with polls. Such meddling was witnessed during the last upazila elections, at least in some cases, which not only created an awkward situation for the EC but also cast doubts on the fairness of the polls.
The EC is now acting to prevent extraneous forces from influencing the by-elections. The by-elections, albeit to a very small number of constituencies, could still be a faint indicator of the government's standing in the public eye after two months. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's very upright stand on the issue of nominating candidates for the December 29 elections, leaving out all but one of her family members, was widely seen as something very positive. Sheikh Hasina had correctly diagnosed the malady and decided to drop certain people from the list of AL nominees. One would expect her to remain true to the spirit and reject the idea of bringing back the maligned insiders or family members to parliament through the by-elections. Bringing them back will be a clear deviation from her avowed position of cleaning up politics, even if it meant dealing harshly with her own relatives. The top leaders of the country should ask themselves why the talk of dynastic politics gained much acceptance in recent years and do whatever is needed to refute it.
It is imperative that ministers and MPs do not become a source of worry to the EC by indulging in activities running counter to the concept of a free and fair election. Their cooperation, and not interference, is what the EC would expect while conducting any election. The political leaders in both the government and the opposition have to go, as a matter of principle, by the rules framed by the EC.