Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Sunday said it is not possible to create a level-playing field for all during the national election keeping parliament in place.
“The election results will be controversial, if it’s held without dissolving parliament,” said TIB executive director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
Some recent controversial activities of the Election Commission have damaged its credibility among political parties, he told a press conference in the city’s Brac Centre Inn to present a study report titled ‘The Effective Election Commission: Progress, Challenges and Ways to Overcome’.
TIB trusty board member M Hafizuddin Khan presided over the function, while Shahjada M Akram, TIB’s senior program manager (Research & policy), presented the research findings.
The report suggested the use of EC’s own officials instead of Deputy Commissioners as the returning officers in the upcoming election saying that there is an apprehension of partisan influence on DCs due to the recent controversial reshuffle and promotion in the administration.
“We can’t rely on DCs as the administration is highly politicised,” Hafizuddin Khan, also a caretaker government adviser, said.
Taking a swipe at the incumbent commission headed by Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, he said the EC sent the amendment proposal for the Representation of the People Order to the government silently without discussion with its stakeholders.
But the previous commission, headed by ATM Shamsul Huda, discussed comprehensively with all the stakeholders before going for any change in election laws, he added.
Questioning the EC’s authority, he said the commission has no power to punish government employees for breaching electoral laws during elections. “The commission can make them accused, at best.”
Disapproving the raising of the election expenditure ceiling from Tk 15 lakh to Tk 25 lakh, Hafizuddin said the polls expenditures should rather have been cut down.
Replying to a query, Iftekharuzzaman said there are two prerequisites --- having in place an effective election commission and enjoying the confidence of all stakeholders by a polls-time government -- to arranging a free and fair general election with the participation of all political parties.
He said the recent city corporation elections were by and large acceptable to all stakeholders, though there were some controversies.
Iftekhar, however, said the local body election and the national election should not be measured with the same scale as change of power comes through the general election.
Asked whether the national election will be held in a fair manner under the partisan government, he said, “If BNP joins the polls, there’ll be no problem. What if BNP does not?”
The study report placed a set of recommendations, including EC’s gaining confidence of the major political parties, using EC’s own staff instead of DCs as returning officers, keeping provision making prior-permission of the commission mandatory for posting and transfer of employees of the cabinet division, home, public administration, local government and other concerned ministries, empowering the EC to cancel candidature and membership of parliament and using of electronic voting machines, providing the party’s nomination on the basis of grassroots-level opinions, enacting a law over appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, disposing of disputes under election tribunals within six months, and publishing annual audit reports of political parties.