For the 11th general election slated for December 30, the Election Commission has fixed the maximum cost per voter at Tk10 while retaining the upper limit of Tk25 lakh per seat
Even though the Election Commission (EC) has no mechanism to check how much a candidate has spent in their campaign for the upcoming 11th national polls, despite setting a maximum cost per voter in every election cycle.
Responding to concerns about campaign financing, EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said on Wednesday that actions can only be taken retroactively if a candidate spends more than the mandated amount.
“The Election Commission will take stern action if any electoral candidate spends more money than the set limit during the election,” he said.
The EC secretary said every candidate must submit an account of costs within 15 days of the election.
“If someone raises an allegation against a candidate, a case will be filed and the district judge will investigate the matter,” he said. “Stern action will be taken against the candidate if they are found guilty.”
According to a Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) survey on the 2008 parliamentary election, candidates each spent an average of Tk30 lakh in excess of the expenditure limit set by the commission.
In the 10th general election held in 2014, the expenditure limit for candidates was set at Tk8.16 for each voter in a seat, up to a maximum of Tk25 lakh.
For the 11th general election slated for December 30, the Election Commission has fixed the maximum cost per voter at Tk10 while retaining the upper limit of Tk25 lakh per seat.
“Fixing a maximum cost per voter for candidates is a bogus system,” the former caretaker government adviser and TIB trustee board member, M Hafiz Uddin Khan, said.
“There is no mechanism, no audit or anything. People violating this limit face no action. Every candidate should spend money from a separate bank account, but none of the candidates follow the rules.”
Hafiz Uddin Khan said a neutral committee for each constituency should be formed to monitor expenditure during electioneering.
“None of the past Election Commissions have been able to take effective measures to contain the influence of unauthorized money in polls.”
According to the commission’s data, Dhaka 19 is the constituency with the highest number of voters, at 747,000. At a cost per voter of Tk10, candidates in the constituency would be entitled to spend almost Tk75 lakh were it not for the Tk25 lakh maximum limit.
By contrast, Jhalakathi-1 is the smallest constituency in the country with only 178,000 voters, permitting candidates to spend a maximum of Tk17.8 lakh.
Badiul Alam Majumder, the secretary of Sushashoner Janya Nagorik (Sujan), said it will be impossible to know if electoral candidates are flouting the rules on campaign financing.
“How will the commission check if any candidate is spending extra money?” he said.
“We want to reduce the cost of the election. The nomination paper selling business has to stop (and) campaign spending has to be reduced.”