'The commission is yet to determine the specific date, but we assume that the national election will be held at the end of December. About 80% of the preparations are already complete'
Preparations for the 11th national election are in full swing with around four months to go to until the country goes to the polls.
Although it is widely known that the Election Commission will timetable the vote for the end of December, the exact date may not be revealed for another ten weeks.
“We are preparing to announce the election schedule in the first week of November,” Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said.
“The commission is yet to determine the specific date, but we assume that the national election will be held at the end of December. About 80% of the preparations are already complete.”
The precise date will be set at a meeting of the commission, considering both the annual school examinations and the Biswa Ijtema, which will begin on January 11 in 2019.
"We are preparing for the upcoming national polls,” Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The gazette for 25 constituencies has already been published after some alterations. The voter list is in the process of being formed, and drafts on the polling centres and booths have been approved.
“ The buying of ballot papers, ballot boxes and other necessary equipment is also in progress.”
Election countdown to start from October 30
As per the constitution, general elections must be held within the 90-day period before the expiry of the five-year tenure of the current Parliament.
As such, the next general election has to be held between October 30 and January 28, since the first session of the current parliament was held on January 29, 2014.
To prepare the ground for the polls, Election Commission officials will present a draft action and implementation plan in September.
As part of this process, the commission has identified 90 tasks which it needs to complete before announcing the election schedule. These tasks will be completed in two phases.
The first phase to be completed by October includes the making of a list of polling centres, finalizing the voter list, acquiring transparent ballot boxes and accessories, setting up a panel of polling officers, training election officials, forming an election manual, and printing the nomination papers.
The second phase of the preparations will begin after the election schedule is announced, the EC officials said.
Voter list prepared
There are more than 104.3 million voters registered in 300 constituencies across the country.
By contrast, the ninth parliamentary polls involved 80 million people on the voter list, while the 10th national polls saw 91.9 million register.
The Election Commission Secretariat is still in the process of making the voter lists for the 11th polls. After these are sent out, the Election Commission will call for people to file any claims or objections.
A draft list of polling centres was published on August 5.
According to the Election Commission, there will be 220,000 voting booths housed in 44,000 polling centres spread across 300 constituencies of the country.
According to the polling centre policy, each centre will serve 2,500 voters on average.
The last date for filing objections against the polling centre list was August 19, and the final list will be published after the settlement of objections, on September 6.
Election officials and security
Each polling centre will have a presiding officer, while each booth will have an assistant presiding officer and two polling officers.
In total, 600,000 polling officers will be appointed.
Furthermore, 15-18 members of the security forces will be present at each of the centres.
The Election Commission will hold special review meetings with the Home Ministry, top officials of law enforcement agencies, returning officers and field officials regarding the security measures.
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda has said the commission is yet to decide on the deployment of the army to further reinforce security, and the decision will be taken after reviewing the overall law and order situation prior to the polls.
Article 126 of the constitution allows the Election Commission to appoint army personnel along with law enforcement agencies if necessary to conduct a free, fair and peaceful election.
The army was on the ground for 15 days during the 10th parliamentary polls.
The Election Commission has already secured the necessary funds for the next general election.
The government allocated Tk1,200 crore for elections in the budget, and Tk675 crore of this amount has been set aside for the national parliamentary polls.
Election Commission officials said 3,440,000 ballot boxes, 619,000 stamp pads, and 578,000 official seals were among the items necessary for the election.
Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said tenders for these goods had already been filed and collection was underway.
Ballot papers will be printed after the finalization of the list of candidates.
The Election Commission has submitted a project proposal on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to the Planning Commission’s National Executive Committee of Economic Council (Ecnec), and this is likely to be approved after Eid-ul-Azha.
“The project will be implemented over five years to June 2023,” an EC official said.
SM Mahmud Arafat, an official at the commission’s IDEA project, said although it was proposed to use 264,000 EVMs in all 300 constituencies in the upcoming general polls, the EC is initially planning to buy only half this number - 132,000 - for use in 150 constituencies this December.
The commission has already bought 2,534 EVMs a few months ago, but only 380 have so far been received.
On Sunday, Election Commissioner Kabita Khanam said the commission is working to amend the Representation of the People Order (RPO) by including the use of EVMs in 11th parliamentary poll.
The revised RPO will be placed in parliament in the upcoming session.
“We are working toward the next parliamentary polls,” she said. “The amendment of the RPO is in progress as well. Two commission meetings have already been held on these issues.”