Awami League, BNP exchange arguments about possibility of fair voting
Major political parties have come to the forefront over the current Election Commission’s credibility and its ability to hold free and fair elections in the two city corporations of Dhaka, scheduled for January 30.
As the back and forth remarks started flying on Wednesday, aspirants kicked off their endeavours to secure nominations from both parties for the mayor and councillor posts in the two city corporations.
The ruling party started selling their nomination forms on Wednesday, while BNP is set to begin on Thursday.
Jatiya Party, the main opposition in parliament, also started selling nomination forms to aspirants seeking nomination in the polls.
The Election Commission has fixed January 30 for the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) elections
Both mayoral and councillor aspirants of the respective parties will be able to submit their nomination papers until December 31 to the commission. The papers will be scrutinized on January 2, while the candidates will have until January 9 to withdraw from the race.
Voters under both city corporations will elect their mayors and councillors by exercising their franchises on electronic voting machines (EVMs) at all polling centres, according to the Election Commission.
AL promises fair polls
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said that democracy was established in Bangladesh, but there was no democracy during BNP’s tenure.
“So, how does the party [BNP] plan to establish democracy in the country?” he questioned, responding to queries from reporters at Comilla Circuit House on Wednesday afternoon.
Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, assured that the government would provide all out support to the Election Commission in properly holding the upcoming elections for the two Dhaka city corporations.
Earlier in the morning at a separate program in Dhaka, he also expressed optimism that the elections would be held in a free, fair, and competitive manner.
“The elections will be free and fair, no matter who wins or loses. Also, it will not be a disaster for the government if we lose,” he said.
Welcoming the ruling party’s main political rival — BNP — to take part in the polls, Quader said: “We want to assure you [BNP] that the elections will be free, fair, and competitive, and they will be acceptable and credible to all too.”
Since the election schedule was announced, the Election Commission has also been assuring all that the voting will be free and fair.
BNP: Slim chance of credible polls
However, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Wednesday appeared unsure about the assurances.
He said that no election could be held fairly under the present commission and government, and the people’s mandate would not be reflected in the polls.
“Even then we are participating in the city polls, because we believe in democracy,” he told reporters after placing wreaths at the grave of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman in Dhaka, alongside the newly elected committee members of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal.
He said there was little chance of ensuring credible polls for the two city corporations.
Fakhrul also expressed reservations and fears again, about result manipulation through EVMs. “These [EVMs] are absolutely flawed and we reject them. We have said that it won’t be right [to use EVMs]. The people’s mandate won’t be reflected through the use of EVMs.
Meanwhile, Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader on Wednesday told reporters that they plan to contest the DSCC and DNCC polls independently, even though the party participated jointly with Awami League in the past several elections.
“We’ll take the final decision after discussion, if the ruling party makes the same proposal again,” he said.
CEC orders impartiality
Amid the debates regarding fair polls, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda on Wednesday asked election officials to perform their duties impartially as the DSCC and DNCC elections were very important for the Election Commission.
He asked the officials to perform their responsibilities fairly so that voters can freely exercise their franchise to elect their preferred candidates.
He made the remarks at the inaugural session of a training program for the returning officers of the upcoming city polls, at the Election Training Institute in the commission headquarters in Dhaka.
“You should not consider the backgrounds of candidates. You must deal with every candidate equally… You have to value the election activities of every candidate,” Huda told the election officials.