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In the evening the law minister Anisul Haque was asked if the coming election commission would be formed by means of this law. Speaking over the mobile phone to Prothom Alo, he said, “Yes, it will.”

The tenure of the present election commission headed by KM Nurul Huda will end on 14 February this year. The new commission will take over on 15 February. From 20 December last year, dialogue has been going on between the president Md Abdul Hamid and political parties over the reconstitution of the EC. During the dialogues, according to the media, most of the parties called for the enactment of a law for the formation of the EC. The dialogue came to an end on Monday with the final discussions between the president and ruling Awami League. A 10-member delegation of Awami League, headed by the party president, prime minister Sheikh Hasina, took part in the dialogue at Bangabhaban Monday afternoon. They too recommended a law to constitute the EC.

The draft law

Earlier Monday morning, the draft law was given final approval by the cabinet. Speaking to the media at the secretariat, cabinet secretary Khandakar Anwarul Islam said the relevant provision lies in Article 118 (1) of the constitution. There it states that the president can appoint the chief election commissioner and the election commissioners. The law is being drawn up accordingly. It is a brief law.

The cabinet secretary said, the draft law maintains that a search committee will be formed to place recommendations before the president for the CEC and election commissioners. The responsibility and function of this committee will be to recommend the names of competent candidates. The head of this six-member search committee will be a judge of the Appellate Division nominated by the Chief Justice. The members will include a judge of the High Court nominated by the Chief Justice, the Comptroller and Auditor General, chairman of the Public Service Commission and two eminent citizens nominated by the president. The cabinet division will provide secretarial support to the committee. After the committee comes up with the names of suitable candidates, the president will appoint the CEC and election commissioners from among these names.

There are constitutional obligations to have a law to constitute the EC. This should have been done much earlier. But a few months ago, ministers of the government had said there was not enough time to draw up a law in this regard. Now, just a month before the new EC is to be formed, they are hurriedly drawing up a law
Badiul Alam Majumdar, Secretary, Shujan

The cabinet secretary said that the draft law included certain criteria for appointment to these posts. These criteria included, firstly that they must be citizens of Bangladesh. Secondly, they must be at least 50 years old. Thirdly, these persons will have to have had at least 20 years’ experience in important government, semi-government, non-government or judicial positions. They can become CEC and election commissioners if they have these qualifications.

Disqualifications for the posts include, if they have been declared bankrupt, if they have foreign nationality or have allegiance to a foreign country (though dual nationality is permissible), if they are guilty of moral turpitude, if they have faced a minimum two-year prison sentence for criminal offence, or if they have been sentenced under the International Crimes Tribunal. Anyone who has retired as CEC will also not qualify. However, anyone retiring as election commissioner qualifies to be appointed as CEC.

When asked if the next EC will be formed under the new law, the cabinet secretary said, the law had been approved today (Monday) and will take a day or two to go to the law ministry. It will take two days there. “It will hopefully not take long because it is a brief law. It will be done quickly,” he said.

Secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Badiul Alam Majumdar, who has long been working on election systems and the EC, told Prothom Alo, “There are constitutional obligations to have a law to constitute the EC. This should have been done much earlier. But a few months ago, ministers of the government had said there was not enough time to draw up a law in this regard. Now, just a month before the new EC is to be formed, they are hurriedly drawing up a law." Badiul Alam Majumdar said he hadn’t seen the draft as yet, but from whatever he gathered from the media, appeared that the proposed law provided legitimacy to the appointment of the previous EC. He said, an actually effective EC must be constituted on the basis of transparency.

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