The government can appoint anyone to the election commission as there is no law. There is time and if the government wants the law can be formulated. Everyone has seen the state of the two election commissions formed through the search committee in the past.
The tenure of the election commission led by KM Nurul Huda will expire in February 2022. As per directives of the constitution, the election commission will be formed through a law. But the law has not been formulated in the last 50 years.
Different political parties and many members of the civil society think there is still time to formulate a law. There is a draft of law. The election commission led by ATM Shamsul Huda prepared this.
However, the government said the law cannot be formulated this time due to the outbreak of coronavirus and scarcity of time. The commission will be formed through the search committee. This committee can be formed in January, sources said.
As there is no law, there is no specific benchmark for the posts of commissioners. The president appoints the commissioners. The process of search committee formation started in 2012. Two commissions were formed through the search commission. Both the commissions were widely criticised.
Stakeholders believe that in absence of a law, the government gets the opportunity to form a search committee and election commission of its choice .
According to Article 48 (3) of the constitution, except the appointment of the prime minister and the chief justice, the president has to take any decision in consultation with the prime minister.
The major opposition party BNP said they are not thinking about any search committee. Drawing attention of the government, party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at an event recently said, "What search committee? Whoever you want will be selected."
Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said, "Whether through a law or a search committee, whatever is formed under this government will be a farce. BNP is not willing to be part of this."
The formation of a search committee started during the tenure of late president Zillur Rahman.
Before the formation of the election commission led by Kazi Rakibuddin in 2012, a four-member search committee led by justice Syed Mahmud Hossain was formed. Syed Mahmud Hossain is now the chief justice. The members were a justice of the High Court, the CAG and PSC chairman.
Ahead of the presidential election commission led by KM Nurul Huda, president Abdul Hamid formed a six-member search committee.
Syed Mahmud Hossain was also the chief of this committee formed in 2017.
The members were justice Obaidul Hasan, CAG Masud Ahmed, PSC chairman Mohammad Sadique, Dhaka University teacher Syed Manzoorul Islam and Chittagong University pro-VC Shireen Akhtar.
After the formation of search committee, BNP raised questions of its neutrality.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Awami League joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam said BNP never practices constructive politics. When they were in power, they constituted the election commission to their choice. So they are obsessed with politicisaion.
He said AL also wants to formulate a law to constitute the election commission. Due to the scarcity of time, it would not be possible to formulate the law ahead of the formation of the next election commission. But many stakeholders think that the law can be formulated if the government wants.
Different political parties and many of the civil society think there is still time to formulate a law. Jatiya Party, the main opposition in the parliament, contested the 11th parliamentary election in alliance with Awami League.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, party secretary general Mujibul Haque said that they demand a law to be formulated as per the constitution to constitute the election commission. He also said there is time to formulate the law. And it is possible if the government wants. The functions of the search committee are not specified.
Earlier, the committee proposed names of CEC and other commissioners. Ahead of formation of Nurul Huda commission, president Abdul Hamid held dialogues with registered political parties. Each of the parties proposed five names.
Taking those names into consideration, the search committee recommended 10 names to the president. The president formed the 5-member commission. But the recommended names were not made public.
If it is not possible to make a law at the moment, the election commission can be formed through the search committee. But the search committee has to take the opinion of all political parties. The shortlist of members the search committee will prepare has to be made public and a mass hearing has to be arranged.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Bangladesh Workers' Party, a partner of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance, president Rashed Khan Menon said it is very important to formulate a law in line with the constitution. If it is not possible to make a law at the moment, the election commission can be formed through the search committee.
But the search committee has to take the opinion of all political parties. The shortlist of members the search committee will prepare has to be made public and a mass hearing has to be arranged.
After taking over in 2017, the current commission was appreciated for the Cumilla City Corporation election. After that, the commission was widely criticised for elections to all local government bodies and the national election in 2018.
On 14 December 2020, 42 eminent citizens brought about nine allegations including grave misconduct and irregularities in the 11th parliamentary election and sent letters to the present EC requesting the formation of a supreme judicial council for investigation. On 17 January 2021, they issued another letter.
But there is no news of any steps taken in this regard. On 25 September, some 54 eminent citizens in a statement demanded that the new election commission be formed after enacting a law. They the said people do not have any trust in the election system due to the partisan role of the current commission and the previous one. To restore the trust of the people, an election commission acceptable to all has to be formed.
Former caretaker government adviser M Hafizuddin Khan said the government can appoint anyone to the election commission as there is no law. There is time and if the government wants the law can be formulated.
He said, "Everyone has seen the state of the two election commissions formed through the search committee in the past."
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam