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New political parties worried about uncertainty marring their registration

  • Published at 01:39 am May 31st, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:40 am May 31st, 2018
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Election Commission Syed Zakir Hossain

As the Election Commission has failed to complete the registration of new political parties within the March 31deadline, parties that have yet to be registered with the Commission are worried about whether they would be able to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary polls due in December.

If the Commission takes more time to complete the registration process, leaders of the newly formed parties fear they might not be able to prepare properly for the elections due to time constraints.  

The leaders of the newly formed parties said though many parties have already launched their campaigns, they are lagging behind because of the EC’s failure to complete their registration process.

The Commission in July 16 last year unveiled a roadmap for the 11th general elections that contained seven priority tasks, including publication of the final list of newly registered parties by March this year.

Despite that the EC roadmap targets publishing a final list of newly registered parties by March 2018, which the commission has failed to do even after two months past the deadline.

The EC is still scrutinizing applications of some of the parties, even though the verification process was supposed to end by February. 

Expressing their grievances at the Commission’s failure, leaders of the parties said the more the process is delayed, the more barriers they would face in the election as, according to them, it would be quite difficult for the EC to ensure a level-playing field during the polls.

Where does EC stand now?

Election Commission officials said they have applications from a total of 76 new political parties, and56 of them were primarily selected after scrutiny. From the verified list, applications of nine parties were dropped as those were found incomplete.

Currently, the EC is verifying documents of 47 parties, they added.

According to regulations set by the EC, a political party seeking to be registered with the Commission needs to submit its constitution, electoral manifesto, rules, logo, and a photograph of its flag, the list of central executive committee members with their posts, information about their bank accounts, and income sources.

According to EC sources, the Commission is likely to shortlist five to six parties of the 47. And it will nominate two to three parties for the final selection.  

What the new parties say

Expressing anger over the slow processing of applications, Gono Songhoti Andolon convener, Zonayed Saki, told the Dhaka Tribune that the delay in processing applications would hamper the level-playing field, an essential element for a free and fair election.

It has also generated disparity between existing political parties and the new ones who cannot launch their electoral campaigns, he added.  

“We have barely six months to prepare for the election. Within this period, our party, if approved, will have to introduce an electoral symbol and select candidates. Besides, there are issues of campaigning and mobilizing voters,” Zonayed said.

“The issue of a party’s identity, a candidate’s popularity, and the party symbol are also very important. From that point of view, I would say we are lagging behind in the race.”

 The left-wing politician added: “The Election Commission authorities have already announced schedules for elections in four city corporations. We could not participate in the recently-concluded Khulna city polls due to our registration issues. We are not sure whether we would be able to take part in the elections of the other four city corporations.”

He called upon the EC to sincerely consider the matter and finish registering the new parties as soon as possible.

Boby Hajjaj, chairman of another newly formed party, Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM), also said they had not received any feedback from the EC concerning registration of their party.

“It is frustrating that the Election Commission has yet to complete its tasks, even though they promised to finish their jobs and publish a list by March,” he said.

“We are eagerly waiting for the registration process to be done, because we need a polls symbol to launch our electoral campaigns. There will be no gains in any election if a candidate contests it without a symbol.”

Echoing Zonayed, Boby said their party too could not field candidates in the recently-concluded city elections as they have not yet been allotted an electoral symbol.   

Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of Nagorik Oikya, said they had sent a letter to the EC on May 28to know the reasons behind the delay.

“If they linger any longer, it will be next to impossible for us to participate in the national elections, because we need a symbol to launch campaigns, which is allotted only when a party gets registered.”

EC uncertain over registration timeframe

Contacted, officials at the Election Commission said they were not sure about how much time they would need to complete the verification and registration process.  

“It is true that the process has been delayed. The committee that oversees the tasks has not yet submitted a report to the Commission. So, it’s really difficult to update you on the progress of the registration process of new parties,” said Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam.

The committee that performs the due diligence is generally headed by an additional secretary, but the post has remained vacant for quite a long time, causing a delay in its assignments, he said.

Asked about the concerns voiced by the new parties, he said: “Though the process was delayed a little bit, it will not hamper the level-playing field during the election.

“The same symbols the parties are using now could be used after their registration. So there is nothing to worry about.”