Parties can’t be forced to join nat’l polls: CEC
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal yesterday said it's not possible to force any political party to take part in the next national election.
"We will not force any party to join the polls ... Nobody will take part in the election just because we are urging them," the CEC said during talks with political parties at the Election Commission office in the capital.
The EC organised it as part of a series of dialogue seeking recommendations from a cross section of people on how to hold a free and fair general election.
Awal said they will continue to appeal to all political parties for joining the next general polls that may be held in late December 2023 or early January 2024.
The CEC's comments came as Bangladesh Kalyan Party, a partner of the BNP-led 20-party combine, skipped the talks with the EC yesterday.
According to sources in the BNP, the party will not participate in the dialogue with the EC scheduled for today.
"The party has decided not to join the ongoing talks with the Election Commission … We have no interest in sitting with it," Sayrul Kabir Khan, a member of the BNP chairperson's press wing, told this newspaper yesterday.
Late last month, the BNP and several other like-minded parties skipped the EC-organised view-exchange programmes on electronic voting machines. The commission took the initiative to earn political parties' trust over EVM use.
"We are trying to hold an inclusive election. We will not be able to bring anyone [to the election] forcibly, and we will not try that," Awal said during talks with Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal yesterday.
"If everyone joins the polls, we will be happy … We have clearly said we must hold the election in line with the constitution, the existing rules and regulations."
During dialogue with Islami Oikya Jote earlier at noon, Awal urged all political parties to have interparty dialogue to reach a consensus on stopping polls violence and the use of money and muscle power.
"We expect a consensus. It will be tough for the Election Commission to find a solution to the issues [polls violence, and the use of money and muscle power] unless there is a joint initiative of all political parties," Awal said.
CEC APOLOGISES, BLAMES MEDIA
Amid backlash from different quarters, Awal yesterday offered "apology" for a controversial comment he made during talks with Nationalist Democratic Movement on Sunday.
That day, he had said, "If all political parties don't cooperate with us, we will fail. There needs to be a concerted effort. If someone comes with a sword, you will have to stand with a rifle or a sword. We will have command over the police and the government."
The CEC also said they cannot stop violence alone. "You [political parties] will have to take responsibility. Because you are the players... we are the referees."
Yesterday, he blamed the media for "distorting" his comments.
"You have to understand that a chief election commissioner can never say this. Maybe I'm less educated. Even a less educated person can't talk like that. I said it as a joke.
"Sometimes, we make mistakes … Sorry for that. I went for a joke. I didn't mean it …"
He alleged that the media distorted his comments and damaged his dignity by spreading the statement knowingly or unknowingly.
"We have given the media free access… But as comments are being distorted, we have to rethink how open we will be to them," he added.
During the talks, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish proposed using ballot papers in the next general election, dissolving parliament before elections and deploying army personnel a week before the polls.
Islami Oikya Jote called for deploying the army in "sensitive areas", and said the election-time government should perform only routine work and EVM should be used only after people's trust is earned.
Ruling alliance partner Samyabadi Dal proposed using EVM in elections and keeping the local government, and the public administration and the home ministries under the EC during the election.
The party's General Secretary Dilip Barua said it's not the EC's duty to bring all political parties to elections.