Members of parliament can attend rallies and processions but cannot seek votes, he says
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda has said that members of parliament (MPs) could not seek votes for candidates at the upcoming elections to the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
MPs cannot get involved in the election process in any way, the CEC said after a meeting with a delegation of the ruling party led by Tofail Ahmed and other election officials on Saturday to discuss its grievances over the campaigning restrictions facing MPs in the polls to the both city corporations.
The Awami League has recently appointed its Advisory Council members Tofail Ahmed and Amir Hossain Amu as coordinators respectively for the upcoming DNCC and DSCC polls.
Asked if they could hold the responsibilities of coordinator, the CEC said: "I do not think so."
He said that the Election Commission did not know officially who were in the coordination teams of the ruling Awami League. It would ask them to refrain from electioneering after being informed.
"They [MPs] will not be able to do electioneering, indoor or outdoor, according to the code of conduct. We have made that clear to them [during the meeting]," he said.
Members of parliament can attend rallies and processions but cannot seek votes, he added.
Emerging after the meeting, Tofail Ahmed said that except seeking votes for candidates, lawmakers can contribute in other ways to the upcoming elections to the Dhaka North and South city corporations.
The Awami League leader's statement is at variance with the opinion of the Election Commission, which has made it clear that MPs can have no participation in the campaign or in any activities with regard to elections. They cannot even be coordinators.
The senior Awami League politician told reporters that a number of inconsistencies in the electoral rules were highlighted during the talks, which also were acknowledged by all the election commissioners, except Mahbub Talukder.
"The MPs will not take part in any road campaign, will not participate in door-to-door campaign seeking votes for the party endorsed candidates. However, with regard to acting as coordinators or discharging other responsibilities bestowed on us by the party, we will be able to hold indoor meetings," the political veteran said.
"We have agreed that we will not participate in any election campaign. They [EC] requested MPs not to seek votes for their candidates. So, we will do other things without seeking votes," Tofail said.
Parliament members are not allowed, under the Electoral Code of Conduct, to campaign in local elections as they hold public posts in which they are entitled to government benefits. Awami League leaders have been opposing this provision. They told the Election Commission that because of this provision, their party members could not take part in the electoral process whereas rank and file members of BNP could participate in campaigns.
'Law enforcers could arrest anyone who has been served with an arrest warrant'
Among other issues raised at the meeting, Tofail said law enforcers could arrest anyone who has been served with an arrest warrant. "No party can have anything to do about it," he reckoned.
Besides, the Election Commission will take steps to prevent propaganda campaigns on social media by candidates indulging in it at the polls for the city corporation polls.
He said: "We have asked about EVMs and told them it was entirely up to the Election Commission."
The opposition BNP has been alleging that its leaders and activists were being harassed by the law enforcers ahead of the polls. The party also voiced its concern over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the polls.