Mahbub under fire
The ruling Awami League led 14-party alliance has accused Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar of "violating the oath of secrecy" and it thinks he should resign.
At a meeting at the AL president's Dhanmondi office yesterday, the alliance also criticised the commissioner for disclosing contents of an Election Commission (EC) meeting to the media, said meeting sources.
The development comes amid demands from the BNP-led alliance and newly-launched Jatiya Oikyafront to recast the entire EC for holding the upcoming national election, likely in late December, in a free and fair manner.
Opposition parties demanded the resignation of the chief election commissioner and other commissioners on several occasions in the past. But call for the resignation of an election commissioner from the ruling alliance appears rare.
“He [Mahbub Talukdar] holds a constitutional post. Holding that constitutional post, talking publicly about secret issues of EC meeting goes against the constitution,” Mohammed Nasim, coordinator of the 14-party alliance, told a press conference after yesterday's meeting.
On Monday, Mahbub walked out of an election preparatory meeting for what he told reporters was not being allowed to place his proposals on how to hold the polls in a free, fair, and inclusive manner.
Mahbub claimed he wanted to speak on five issues, including how to use the army in the election, find ways to ensure level-playing field for all parties and increase EC's capabilities to exercise its power, at the commission's meeting.
"Mahbub Talukdar cannot make such comments on Election Commission's meeting. He should resign as he violated his oath of secrecy,” said Nasim, a presidium member of the AL.
It is to be noted that although the chief election commissioner and four other election commissioners were sworn into office, they were not required to take the "oath of secrecy" like the prime minister and the other ministers.
When his attention was drawn to the matter later in the day, Nasim said, "He [Mahbub Talukdar] cannot make such comments to the media holding a constitutional post.
"He is not a spokesperson for the EC. Only the spokesperson for the EC can talk to the media about the discussion of the EC meeting," he told The Daily Star over phone.
Dilip Barua, secretary general of Samayabadi Dal, a component of the ruling party-led alliance, said they discussed about Mahabub Talukdar at the meeting.
"He should make such comments only after resigning," Barua told The Daily Star.
Mahbub's walkout from the EC meeting on Monday exposed a rift in the commission. That rift has apparently deepened. An election commissioner yesterday termed one of the proposals from Mahbub unconstitutional.
Kabita Khanam said there was no scope to place any government department or ministry under the jurisdiction of the EC.
But Mahbub Talukdar proposed bringing the ministries of public administration and the home under the EC during the polls, she said, adding the constitution would not support that.
"Therefore, his proposal is unconstitutional," she told reporters at her office.
One of the written proposals prepared by Mahbub, which was to be placed before the EC's meeting on Monday, said many participants in talks with the EC last year proposed bringing the two ministries under the jurisdiction of the commission during polls. Some of them also proposed to bring the information, finance and LGRD ministries under the jurisdiction of the EC, he said.
"I think people's confidence in the election will increase if the two ministries -- public administration and home -- are placed under the jurisdiction of the EC. This will contribute to holding the polls in a free and fair manner," Mahbub said in his written proposal.
Prior to his walking out of the Monday's meeting, Mahbub also submitted a note of dissent.
Kabita Khanam said the note of dissent may be given against a decision. But no decision was taken at that meeting, she added.
"Difference of opinion may be there in the EC. But it cannot be labelled as a rift," she said.
Mahbub Talukdar was appointed as an election commissioner in February last year, along with CEC KM Nurul Huda and three other election commissioners. The president made the appointment on recommendation of a search committee formed by the president. The search committee had held talks with political parties.