Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bangladesh goes to election on Dec 23

  • Staff Correspondent bdnews24.com
    Published: 2018-11-08 19:00:27 BdST

bdnews24

Bangladesh will go to election on December 23 as the Election Commission has rolled out the roadmap to the 11th parliamentary polls after the two main political camps failed to iron out thorny issues.

Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda announced the date in a recorded speech broadcast on Bangladesh TV and Betar at 7pm on Thursday, setting Nov 19 as the deadline for nomination submission. 

The Election Commission will screen the nominations on Nov 22 and set Nov 29 as the deadline for the withdrawal of nominations, giving the aspirants a 10-day window to consider their decision.

Huda also announced introduction of electronic voting machines or EVMs in the parliamentary polls amid opposition by a number political groups. The machines will be used in some urban areas on a limited scale this time, he said.

“We believe that if EVMs are used, it will improve the quality of the voting process and save time, money and labour,” Huda said.

Nearly 104.2 million people, including a little more than 51.6 million women, are registered as voters. They will elect their 300 representatives to parliament through the balloting in about 40,000 polling stations. 

The electoral commission has completed the process of recruiting about 700,000 officials to conduct the polls.

As many as 600,000 members of police, BGB, Bangladesh Coast Guard, Ansar and Village Defence Party will be deployed for law enforcement. In addition, the army will be deployed to aid the civil administration.

Earlier in the day, Huda met his colleagues to finalise the voting day at a meeting that lasted one and a half hours.

The meeting that started at the Election Commission in Agargaon at 11am set the voting date and finalised the cut-off time for the submission and withdrawal of nomination papers and a detailed schedule of the polling day.

Huda’s speech came amid the new opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front’s repeated calls for the commission to defer the election schedule. The ruling Awami League, on the other hand, urged the EC to stick to its plan.

The EC says it is a constitutional binding to hold the election by Jan 28, as the countdown to the polls has already began.

CALL FOR JOINING POLLS 

Huda urged all political parties to take part in the election to continue Bangladesh’s “development efforts and put democracy on a stronger footing”.

“I believe the enthusiastic presence of supporters prevents irregularities in an election fiercely contested by all the political parties,” he argued.

The BNP, which is the key component of the newly formed anti-government alliance, the party’s partners in its old 20-Party coalition and some other parties stayed away from the last election held on Jan 5, 2014.

The BNP showed the absence of a nonpartisan government as the reason behind its violent boycott.

The new alliance led by Dr Kamal Hossain is also pushing for the release of BNP chief Khaleda Zia, who is in jail for corruption.

They raised the demands in recent talks with ruling Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina.

She continued rejecting the pleas, arguing that the election must be held in line with the constitution, which allows her to be in power during the polls. She also argued that instructing the judiciary to free Khaleda will mean curbing its freedom.

CEC Huda hoped all the parties would settle the issues “politically” by showing tolerance.

“We expect the political parties to act responsibly to avoid acts of vengeance and violence stemming from competition,” he said.

‘LEVEL PLAYING FIELD’

He pledged a series of measures to even the playing field. 

In his speech, he ordered the law enforcers to ensure that no voter, politician, supporter or polling agent faces harassment or cases without a genuine reason.   

The EC will take action to ensure that all the people can practise their right to vote without any hindrance, stay at home safely after the balloting and equal opportunities for all the parties and candidates in campaign.

The CEC warned the political parties, candidates and their supporters against violation of the electoral laws and code of conduct.

He said the political parties had already started preparing for the vote while analysts and experts are expressing their views and recommendations, TV stations are airing talk shows, newspapers are running special stories, and many local and foreign organisations have expressed eagerness to observe the election.

“Overall, an atmosphere favourable to the parliamentary election has been created in the country.

“Amidst the cheerful preparation, I hope, request and demand that the candidates and their supporters follow the electoral laws and code of conduct,” he said.