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Sunday, March 13, 2016, Falgun 30, 1422 BS, Jamadius Sani 3, 1437 Hijri

An acid test for Election Commission
UP polls campaign turning violent
Azizul Islam Bhuyian
Published :Sunday, 13 March, 2016,  Time : 11:07 AM  View Count : 56
As the UP elections date is nearing, the countrywide Union Parishad (UP) electioneering is taking a violent turn leading to serious questioning of the neutrality and capability of the Election Commission to hold free, fair and credible elections. Since the beginning of the electioneering of the first phase of UP polls, at least four people were killed and over 100 others injured in violent incidents across the country. Besides, party offices, election centers and even candidates' houses and personal establishments were set ablaze and ransacked by the opponents in various districts including Narayanganj, Laxmipur, Comilla, Bogra, Pirojpur, Bagerhat, Bhola, Jhalakathi and Pubna.
Despite having tough laws against such misdeeds and violations of electoral codes of conduct, the EC still now has remained a 'silent spectator.' It casts doubts among the general public over the neutrality of the Commission which has already become controversial for various admitted facts.
Although the EC has sounded serious warning against any poll violence or irregularity, those have still remained 'hollow sounding threats' as no noteworthy steps were noticed on behalf of the EC to stop various irregularities in the polls that for the first time in the country's history is going to be held on party basis with party election symbols.
As per polls schedule candidates have filed nominations against 752 UPs in the first phase and 710 UPs in the second phase. Over 4,275 UPs will go to polls in six phases across the country beginning from March 22.
At the very outset of the electioneering, the EC was denounced when in the first phase at least 62 contestants came out victorious unopposed which is unprecedented in the history of the country's UP elections. In the second phase polls, another 13 persons were also declared elected unopposed that further defamed the EC. Besides, it was alleged that in the first phase BNP could not file nominations in 119 UPs while its number came down to 62 in the second phase. Allegations have been pouring into the concerned offices of the returning officers on various grounds. Majority of the allegations have come from the BNP ticket holders as well as Awami League rebels. However, it was told by Awami League side that BNP could not file nominations in those posts as they had no suitable candidates. Besides, AL alleged that because of faulty and wrong politics of BNP many potential candidates abandoned the party long before. AL rebel candidates have been raising objections against the biased role of the EC officials and law enforcing agencies.
On the previous occasions, some candidates were elected unopposed and there was no harm in it. It may happen in case of some 'most popular' candidates or under certain 'socio-political environment.' But unopposed elections of such a large number of candidates at the lowest level of local government administration surely generated doubts, mistrust and suspicion among the common people and the EC has no scope to avoid its responsibility in such cases.
Rival political parties and individual candidates have brought allegations that their candidates were not allowed to submit nomination papers in the wake of use of force or due to many other fraudulent means. Even, allegations were there that nomination papers could not be filed by many candidates due to death threats by their rivals. Even today, there are very little instances where the EC had either taken any action or even made any effective investigation to probe those allegations. Even after violent clashes leading to death or critical injuries to many people, there were no indications or instances of taking any action against the violators of the election codes of conduct.
We may recall here that the EC had already attained significant amount of slander and defame for its questionable role in conducting the last general elections as well as City Corporations and Pourashava polls. In those elections doubtful number of candidates were elected unopposed that tarnished the image and credibility of the EC. Poll observers believe that candidates belonging to certain quarters have become desperate because of indifferent attitudes of the EC.
It should be borne in everyone's mind that the EC shall have to go a long way, at least up to 2019 national elections. It if fails to establish its unquestionable credibility, transparency and integrity, the nation may face disastrous consequences as we have burning experiences of the near past. It is still fresh in our memory that the EC headed by Justice MA Aziz could not sustain in the face of extreme displeasure of the people. So, for the sake of national interest, for the sake of sound growth of democracy and for the sake of justice and fair play as well as for establishing good governance in the country, the Election Commission must be above all criticism, controversy and debate - it is very much irrelevant which party bags how many seats in the UP polls. Rather, the EC can best serve the nation, the government and even the ruling party by establishing its image as a transparent, accountable and efficient body in the country.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].