Election experts have repeatedly expressed concerns over possible legal complications which could postpone the mayoral by-election of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and the polls to elect the councillors of 18 new wards under the DNCC.
The Election Commission, on numerous occasions had assured everyone that there are no legal hurdles against holding the mayoral by-polls. The EC was confident enough to announce the polls schedule on December 17, 2017.
The voting was set to take place on February 26, 2018. However, it appears that the concerned experts were right about the issue all along.
On Wednesday, the High Court issued an order to halt the upcoming by-polls for the mayor post of DNCC for three months, after holding preliminary hearing of two writ petitions. Following the court order, EC suspended all proceedings of that election the same day.
In their initial review of the High Court order over the DNCC by-polls, election experts stated that they had already identified the grounds on which the election was suspended. They blamed both the commission and the government for not taking cognizance of the issues they had revealed.
On the other hand, the government and the commission are playing the blame game over the issue.
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In an earlier news report published on the Bangla Tribune, two election commissioners had admitted the possibility of legal complications against holding the polls.
One of the officials, on condition of anonymity had said: “We [Election Commission] do not want to take the responsibility of announcing the election schedule despite the looming possibility of legal complications.”
But, the commission went ahead and announced the schedule. Shortly after making the announcement, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda said: “There are no legal complications against holding the by-polls.”
According insiders from the Election Commission, the officials concerned did not seriously considered the possibility of the legal complication against holding the by-polls.
A meeting was held in December last year before the announcement of election schedule, but this particular issue was not discussed.
Addressing the matter, local government election expert Dr Tofail Ahmed said: “The writs were filed on genuine grounds, and the High Court order is also very logical. We had warned them [EC] about the issue. Why would they announce a schedule without resolving legal complications?”
He added: “I do not know whether they [EC] did it on the government’s instructions or not. If political motivation is behind this decision, then I do not have anything to say about it.”
Dr Tofail pointed out that the commission neglected to clearly define the tenure of ward councilors to be elected, as the wards were added to the city corporations in 2016.
“The voter list has not even been finalized yet. They [EC] chose to move forward with the election despite these major issues,” he added.
Blaming both the government and the commission, the election expert said: “The LGRD Ministry and the Election Commission cannot avoid taking responsibility for this debacle.
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“I hope that the government and the commission will make a serious effort to resolve the legal complications, and hold the polls in DNCC and DSCC as soon as possible.”
Speaking to the correspondent, former election commissioner Sohul Hossain said: “The voter list will be finalized on January 31st. The new voters will be able to vote and even contest in the polls.
“The EC move to announce the election schedule this early was not a logical move. I support the court’s order regarding the issue.”
Secretary of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), a civil society platform for good governance, Badiul Alam Majumder said: “The court postponed the polls, but who was responsible for this debacle, the government or the commission? I want to know why the people are being deprived of their voting rights.”
Meanwhile, LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain however blamed the Election Commission for the postponement of the polls.
“I do not have a clear idea why the High Court postponed the election. However, I heard that the order was delivered over unresolved issues such as an incomplete voter list.”
Speaking to the media, acting Secretary of EC Secretariat Helaluddin Ahmed stated: “It is the Election Commission’s duty to hold polls. The local government requested the commission to go ahead with the polls, so we made necessary preparations.
“We had reviewed the legal matters, and were convinced that there are no complications against holding the polls. So we had announced the schedule.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com