EU team explores election laws
The EU Election Exploratory Mission sought to know about Bangladesh's electoral laws and procedures at a meeting with Law Secretary Md Golam Sarwar yesterday.
Speaking to The Daily Star after the meeting, Golam Sarwar said, "I told them that a free and fair election is possible under the present Election Commission as the legal structure to this effect is sufficiently strong."
He also told the mission how the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners were "appointed under the country's law in a very transparent manner" – selected by a committee led by a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
He further said there was no such EC recruitment law in other countries in the subcontinent.
"I informed them that the judicial magistrates work under the Election Commission's supervision during the polls period and that the commission's power to stop voting has been enhanced after the amendment to the Representation of the People Order. They [the mission] were satisfied," the law secretary added.
"I told them that a probe committee is formed under a joint district judge for every constituency once the election schedule is announced. The committee will perform duties till the election result gazette is issued, and will prepare reports if polls irregularities take place. It will send those to the Election Commission, which will take necessary steps accordingly."
He added that he told them the judicial officials (lower court judges) will be under the EC's jurisdiction during the polls period as per the SC's advice.
The meeting was held in the conference room of the law ministry at the Secretariat.
MEETING WITH INFO MINISTER
At a separate meeting with Information Minister Hasan Mahmud yesterday, the mission enquired about the role of his ministry with regard to the functioning of the media in general.
"We said our media is mainly private. Apart from Bangladesh Television, the 35 television channels in operation are private. All the 1,250 daily newspapers, a few thousand online [news portals], FMs and community radio, apart from Bangladesh Betar – all are private," he told reporters at a briefing at the Secretariat.
The minster made the comments after meeting the visiting EU mission members Riccardo Chelleri, Dimitra Ioannou and Christina Dos Ramos Alves, according to a ministry statement.
The EU mission, which arrived in Bangladesh last Saturday, has so far met foreign diplomats; officials of the ministries of foreign affairs and Chattogram Hill Tracts affairs, police, Human Rights Commission, Election Commission and the Attorney General, on Sunday and Monday.
The mission, which is on a two-week-long visit, will be assessing the election environment, along with rules and regulations. Based on their assessment report, the EU will decide if it would send election observers for the national polls slated to be held in December this year or January next.
Hasan Mahmud also discussed with them the challenges of rumours spread on social media platforms, which also sometimes incite violence.
"Earlier this year, the European Union amended laws to ensure all social media platforms are registered. We asked Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and other platforms to register as per our law, but they are yet to do so."
He added that he told the EU mission that upcoming election will be held under the incumbent government, like it is in European countries.
"I told them the government doesn't have any power other than doing routine work, and that the institutions related to the polls work under the Election Commission [and not the government]."
The minister also said there was no discussion regarding a caretaker government with the mission as it is not their mandate.
"It [establishing a caretaker government] is only BNP's headache. The EU mission came here to assess if they would send election observers, not to bring the opposition to the election. However, I told them we want all political parties, including the BNP, to participate in the polls."