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Political parties urge new Election Commission law in talks with president

  • Kazi Sajidul Haque and Kazi Mobarak Hossain, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2022-01-17 13:20:54 BdST

bdnews24

Most of the political parties have spoken in favour of introducing a new law for the formation of a new Election Commission during their talks with President Abdul Hamid.

While some of the parties have proposed some names for the ‘search committee,’ most of them said a search committee is ‘not required.’

The ruling Awami League, scheduled to meet President Abdul Hamid at 4 pm on Monday, will be the last political party to participate in the talks. A 10-member delegation of the Awami League, led by its chief Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is likely to go to Bangabhaban on that day.

President Md Abdul Hamid had opened talks with registered political parties at the Bangabhaban to discuss their views on the formation of a new Election Commission on Dec 20. The Jatiya Party, the opposition in parliament, was the first political party to meet the president.

Hamid had similarly appointed the outgoing election commissioners through a search committee after holding talks with the parties nearly five years ago. He initiated a dialogue again as the tenure of the commission headed by KM Nurul Huda is ending on Feb 14. President Hamid has to appoint the new election commissioners before that deadline.

The president will consider their demands, JP Secretary General Mujibul Haque Chunnu said.

“People have no confidence in the electoral process in the country. They have especially lost confidence in the Election Commission, and the only way to regain their trust is to introduce a permanent law in line with the Constitution, to form an Election Commission,” he said.

“The president won’t need to hold a dialogue every five years if the new law is drafted after incorporating the opinions of everyone. It will be a permanent solution to the issue.”

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JaSoD) President Hasanul Haque Inu, however, believed the dialogues with the president over forming a ‘search committee’ were successful.

“Those who participated in the talks have placed different demands, but none of them raised any objection against the formation of a search committee,” he said.

The focus should be on the search committee to see what they suggest about the formation of a new EC, he said.

“Though many political parties have boycotted the dialogue, it will still lead to the formation of a search committee.”

In the absence of a law to appoint election commissioners, the power to appoint an election commissioner is vested upon the president in line with the Constitution. Late president Zillur Rahman had constituted the previous Election Commission by forming a committee to shortlist names of possible candidates for the posts of the election commissioners and their chief.

Hamid had followed suit, appoint Chief Election Commissioner Huda and the other commissioners from the names recommended by the search committee.

Currently, more than three dozen parties are registered with the EC. Last time, Hamid had held the talks with 31 parties throughout December 2016, starting with the BNP, before forming the commission.

Like the last two times, the head of the state opened the talks over EC formation and invited 32 political parties to the Bangabhaban.

A total of seven political parties, including the BNP, which wants an apolitical caretaker government in power in the lead up to the general election, had announced a boycott of the dialogue this time, describing it as a ‘farce’.

CPB, BaSad and JSD refrained from participating in the talks, stating that their proposals raised in previous talks should be considered first.

Gono Forum and Bikalpadhara took part in the dialogues but their top leaders, Kamal Hossain Chowdhury and AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury did not go to the Bangabhaban.

Following the talks, the Cabinet Division will issue a notice to form a search committee, said the president’s Press Secretary Md Joynal Abedin.

PARTIES URGE NEW DRAFT LAW

Most of the political parties participating in the talks with President Hamid have strongly pushed for a new law over EC formation, and the government is in favour of it as well, said Law Minister Anisul Huq. But the law cannot be drafted before the formation of the new EC as they do not have enough time, he said.

The law minister had previously said that he would be able to bring a law regarding the formation of the EC to parliament within the next two sessions. But, after President Hamid opened the talks with the political parties, Huq said that the search committee will be used this time as well.

Some of the parties have provided a list of names for the search committee, though most of them spoke in favour of introducing a law. 

The Jatiya Party submitted a list of names for the search committee, though they did not disclose the names.

Bikalpadhara Bangladesh proposed three names, including celebrated author Prof Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, Rokeya Afzal Rahman, a former adviser to the caretaker government, and Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, a former cabinet secretary for the search committee.

The Krishak Sramik Janata League, led by Kader Siddique, opposed the formation of a search committee.

FORM A COUNCIL

As an alternative to the search committee, the government should form a council for the formation of the Election Commission, said some of the political parties participating in the talks.

A ‘special council’ can be formed including the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, the speaker of the house, chief justice and attorney general, said Ganatantri Party.

The search committee will propose five names to the council and the council will shortlist those and send them to the president. The president will appoint the commissioner from the shortlist, it said.

Besides proposing a new law to be drafted, the Workers Party suggested using the parliament to form the Election Commission. The search committee should include constitutional posts and also, the new EC should have two women in it, they proposed.

Zaker Party proposed to form a search committee including representatives from all registered political parties, while the Jatiya Party-JP, led by Anwar Hossain Manju, said the Constitution never mentions a search committee.

INTERIM GOVERNMENT

While participating in the talks with President Abdul Hamid, some of the political parties have proposed the formation of an interim government.

The Krishak Sramik Janata League wanted an election-time government to be formed which included the participation of all political parties. The National People’s Party (NPP) was against a ‘non-elected’ or caretaker government but wanted an election-time interim government led by the prime minister and including all registered political parties that believed in the spirit of the liberation war.

Sammobadi Dal, a member of the 14-party alliance, proposed an election-time government led by the prime minister and formed according to the constitution.

Khilafat Majlish proposed an amendment of the constitution and the formation of a non-partisan, unbiased election-time interim government.

Gono Front said a national government should be formed including all political parties and should oversee the polls.