The Bangladesh Election Commission cannot intervene if any registered political party’s activities are hampered before the announcement of election schedule, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said on Sunday.
The EC will be able to step in once the schedule is announced, he added.
Huda said this when a reporter drew his attention to a recent incident where law enforcers tried to stop several political party leaders to hold a meeting at Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rob) President ASM Abdur Rob’s Uttara residence on Thursday night.
Stating that the government and the Election Commission have a responsibility to create a level-playing field for all political parties, Huda said, it was not for the EC to see “which political party makes what sort of statement in Paltan or Suhrawardy”.
“We have no role in ensuring political parties’ right to hold meetings. The Commission will take appropriate action if anyone creates hindrance to election campaigns of any party and intimidate voters after the election schedule is announced,” he said.
The incident in Rob’s house was widely criticised. Political leaders, including BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, condemned it.
Contacted, BNP’s Standing Committee Member Moudud Ahmed said, “It is their [EC’s] duty to ensure a congenial atmosphere for all political parties all the time.”
Unveiling a year-long roadmap for the next parliamentary elections at the EC secretariat in the capital, the CEC yesterday hoped that the EC would keep the next parliamentary elections free from any sorts of interference.
“It is not only about government influence, but also about the influence of any political party as well as local and international agencies … we will be able to keep it free of any influence,” he said.
The agenda of the roadmap are talks with political parties and other stakeholders, reforming the electoral law, demarcation of constituencies, updating voter lists, preparing a list of possible polling stations, taking application from new political parties willing to be registered with the EC, and building the capacity of officials to hold national election.
The EC formed a committee led by a commissioner to examine the existing laws and make necessary recommendations.
The Awami League termed the roadmap realistic while the BNP said it would not resolve the prevailing crisis as the decision on a polls-time government was yet to be finalised.
Soon after the announcement of the roadmap, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed told reporters that the upcoming election would be held on time and no anti-constitutional proposal would be accepted.
One the other hand, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the party would hold a meeting of its senior leaders today to discuss the issue and come up with a formal reaction.
Talking about their course of action, the CEC said the Commission would proceed with the roadmap, and if it faced any obstacle after the announcement of election schedule, it would take legal action.
Asked about the format of the polls-time government, he said it was a political decision of the government.
On the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), Huda said, “We did not close the door to using EVM in the 11th parliamentary election. We will talk with political parties. We will discuss the political parties’ preparation and we will tell them about our preparation in this regard.”
At present, there are around 700-800 EVMs and those are five to six year-old, he said, adding, “Around two and a half lakh EVMs would be required … we will decide about it considering all aspects.”
As per the roadmap, the EC will start dialogue with political parties and other stakeholders on July 31. The dialogue will begin with talks with civil society members.
Talks with journalists will be held in August and with 40 registered political parties from August to September.
Besides, the EC will hold separate dialogues with election observers, women leaders and election management experts in October.
Demarcation of parliamentary constituencies would be held by December 2017.