EC coy about addressing opposition complaints?

Staff Correspondent . Dhaka | Update:

Election Commission

Detention and harassment of the opposition party men, violation of code of conduct during electioneering and tearing up of posters of the opponents are three main complaints the election commission (EC) has received from the candidates contesting in Rajshahi, Barishal and Sylhet civic polls.

The returning officers, however, are not taking punitive measures except serving show-cause notices on the defaulters, the opposition-backed candidates alleged.

The accused, in some instances, are getting freed after signing at best a bond not to repeat such acts, they said.

The mayoral candidates, including those from ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and principal opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), submitted more than 90 of such complaints since the campaigning began on 10 July for the civic polls in three cities, scheduled to be held on 30 July.

AL-backed mayoral contestant in Rajshahi submitted the most number of complaints. He has submitted 53 complaints as against only 23 by his opposite number.

The BNP candidate alleged that most of the 43 of his leaders and activists arrested until 23 July did not have any arrest warrant against them, while some of them were arrested in cases filed a long time ago.

Other allegations of the party include the electioneering of MPs, which is a gross violation of the code of conduct.

Some of the allegations brought by the candidates of the two major parties are the same: tearing up of posters by the opposition men, vandalising their polls offices and issuing threat to the activists.

The BNP said it has not got any solution to their allegations while the AL men said the office of the returning officer did not inform them about the actions taken regarding their complaints.

Refuting the allegation of remaining inactive, the returning officer of Rajshahi said he has taken actions about the allegations made by the mayoral candidates.

Most of the accusations the AL-backed candidate has made are aimed at stopping the returning officer from taking any action following the complaints filed by the BNP-backed mayoral runner, the officials of the office of returning officer and local voters believe.

In Barishal, a total of 24 complaints, including seven by the BNP and five by the Awami League, were submitted in the last 15 days. Most of them are about the violation of code of conduct.

One of the allegations said the principal of Sher-e-Bangla Medical College campaigned in favour of the AL-backed candidate.

The principal, however, regretted his act and signed a bond not to repeat it after the returning officer served a notice to him.

Other allegations include use of circuit house for election-related tasks, use of loud speakers even after the allowed time and showing AL candidate’s polls symbol “boat” illegally.

The allegations against the BNP candidate include setting up of election office in front of government offices, tearing up of posters, and holding processions without permission.

In some cases, the returning officer warned the people concerned, while on a few occasions, served show-cause notices only.

In Sylhet, 13 complaints of violation of code of conduct were made, including the participation of nurses and employees of MAG Osmani Medical College and the vice chancellor (VC) of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in campaigns for the ruling Awami League's mayor candidate.

In three instances, the returning officers warned those involved while served show-cause notices to two.

The election commission can sentence to six months of jail to any person and fine Tk 50,000 for violating the city corporation polls code of conduct and fine Tk 50,000 to the institution or political party for doing the same. The EC also can cancel the candidacture for violating the code of conduct.

“This is only normal that there’d be allegations of violation of code of conduct. Some of them are true while some are made to put pressure on the oppositions. But the returning officer must look into every single complaint seriously,” said former election commissioner Sakhawat Hossain.

“The EC should help the returning officers so that they don’t backtrack on carrying out their duty... Now, it all depends on the commission how they would solve the problem,” he added.

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