The early announcement of the polls schedule and decision to use Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) has created uncertainty regarding the fairness and acceptability of the election, speakers said at a programme yesterday.
They also urged the main opposition party BNP not to boycott the upcoming election despite the current spree of “political arrests”.
“We want not only a peaceful election, but also a fair one… Restriction on political activities, Digital Security Act, spree of arrests -- in this prevailing situation, we can't be sure that a fair and acceptable election will be held on November 23,” said Shujan President Hafiz Uddin.
He was responding to a query of a participant at the “National Election Olympiad” held at CIRDAP Auditorium in Dhaka.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan), a civil society platform, organised the event in association with an international voluntary organisation, 'The Hunger Project'.
Some 73 youths from 30 constituencies in the country, selected through regional Election Olympiads and renowned personalities, participated in the programme.
Regarding the early announcement of the election schedule, Shujan president said, “We don't understand the need to hold it [election] so early despite calls from opposition parties. Why can't you [Election Commission] move it to January next year? What is the problem?”
Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said, “The fourth-tier opposition party men are now being arrested. The first, second and third tiers are either in jail or in exile. In this context, election could be peaceful, but not fair.”
About the use of EVM, former chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda said, “I have enough doubts about handling a sensitive issue [EVM] like this. If all parties don't agree on it, it shouldn't be done… if it is done forcibly there could be a problem.”
On August 30, the Election Commission drew up plans to use EVMs in several constituencies -- a move that was met with criticism from opposition parties.
Sources said the EC has proposed for Tk 3,821 crore to procure 1.5 lakh EVMs.
Speakers said peaceful elections, like those of the four city corporations, do not mean they are fair and acceptable.
“Election has to be fair, peaceful and democratic. But we don't want such peaceful election that we have seen in Rajshahi City Corporation -- a controlled one,” said Badiul Alam Majumdar.
He said that the Digital Security Act has been “given in hands of the security forces as a weapon”.
Speakers also expressed hope that the main opposition party BNP will not boycott election this time.
ATM Shamsul Huda said, “As BNP didn't join the last national election in 2014, it created a mockery of a situation… I think they would join the election this time. But they are, most likely, thinking of an expression of protest.”
At the end of the programme, ten winners of the olympiad were awarded prizes.
Around 2.30 crore youths are expected to exercise their voting rights in the upcoming election, according to EC.
There are 10,41,43,381 voters in the country at present.