The upcoming parliamentary election should be held under a non-partisan government because previous elections under partisan governments were not credible, discussants said at a roundtable yesterday.
They also said the Election Commission (EC) should not hastily introduce the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the national polls before it is extensively introduced to the voters.
Civil society platform Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) arranged the roundtable on “Amendment of the Representation of People Order (RPO) and Fair Election” at the capital's Jatiya Press Club.
The discussants -- including former bureaucrats, professors, governance campaigners and lawyers -- said institutional reform in different government bodies is required for ensuring credible polls due in December.
Addressing the roundtable, Shujan President M Hafizuddin Khan criticised the EC for sending a proposal hurriedly to the government to change the RPO of 1972 for allowing it to use EVMs in the upcoming polls.
The EC is working like a "rocket" to include EVM system in the RPO, he said.
Many countries, including the US, have not yet started using it. Many nations also suspended the system after using it, since they think it was not suitable, he said, adding that most Bangladeshis do not know about it properly.
“So, why the rush?” he questioned.
Also a former adviser to a caretaker government, Hafizuddin Khan said, “We have to accept that previous elections under political governments were not held in fair manners.”
“Our only demand should be election under a non-partisan government,” he added.
Former Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumdar said fair election does not depend only on government's will.
However, if the government wants it can turn state actors -- like police, BGB and other state servants, which have possibility to appear as “villain” during elections -- into "friends" overnight, he said.
Gono Forum Executive President Subrata Chowdhury said if political parties really want, they can sit together and reach a consensus in seven days, he said.
Prof CR Abrar of International Relations department of Dhaka University said people are worried as distrust has been created in them over the upcoming elections, and that “the EC is yet to gain people's trust”.
It is the government's duty to create a favourable environment so that people can cast vote for their preferred candidates, he added.
On EC's role in registration of political parties, Gano Samhati Andolon's Central Coordinator Zonayed Saki said the regulation of registration with the EC has become a process to exclude political parties.
Moderating the roundtable, Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said the EC has proposed to recruit constituency-based returning officers, but it lacks enough number of officials. As a result, the EC has to ask other government officials to do the duty.
But politicisation of the government sector -- that has been going for years -- remains a big question to this end, he added.
At the roundtable, Shujan Coordinator Dilip Sarkar read out a 12-point demand and urged the EC to incorporate those while amending the RPO.
Supreme Court lawyer barrister Jyotirmoy Barua and environmental activist Syeda Rizwana Hasan, among others, spoke at the event.