CEC sees no problem in campaigning with symbol, avoids answering some questions

Chief election commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal talks to newsmen
File photo

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal has said time has not come to impose the election code of conduct. According to him, the code applies after the nominations are finalised in the election. Now, there is no obstacle for any political party to campaign with election symbols.

He said these to the queries of journalists at the election building of Agargaon in the capital on Sunday.

The code of conduct of national elections, however, is not only applicable to candidates but also to political parties as it is called “political party and candidates’ code of conduct”.

The codes say, any registered party or its nominated candidates or independent candidates or anybody on behalf of them cannot run any election campaign before three weeks from the election.

The code further specified that this code is applicable for pre-election time. The pre-election time is from the day when the schedule is announced to the date when the official gazette of the election result is published.

The schedule of the 12th national parliament election was announced on 15 November. The official campaign will commence on 18 December. But the accusations of various prospective candidates of the ruling party breaking the codes arose in many places.

CEC Kazi Habibul Awal said in response to the questions of the journalists that the main subject of the code of conduct is the candidate. Potential candidates are not candidates. Election campaigning opportunities will be given from the day the returning officer finalises the list of candidates and allot the symbols.

CEC said, “The election campaigns that are going on before, these are not election campaigns for us. Now, if a political party with a plough, with a boat symbol … if they campaign, there is no obstacle to it.”

The CEC also said that the EC will control the contenders once they are finalised. If anyone violates the code of conduct, action will be taken against him as per the rules.

In response to a question about the meeting between prime minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina at Ganabhaban regarding party candidate nomination, CEC said, “... if she (Prime Minister) has held the meeting … where is the problem? Because the time has not come for us to implement the code of conduct.”

The CEC said, “Where the prime minister is holding a meeting, what meeting is she doing, the PM is not a candidate, may be a potential candidate … she will be a candidate after final acceptance by the returning officer. Therefore, the main point of the law is that no candidate or anyone behalf of a candidate can violate the election code of conduct.”

However, the EC sent a letter to the returning officer on 22 November with instructions to warn Rajshahi-1 constituency MP Omar Farooq Chowdhury for “violating the code of conduct”.

When asked if the code of conduct is not applicable before the official campaigns, how then the EC sent an instruction of warning to the MP, the CEC evaded the question.

‘No decision is made about deferring the election’

When asked whether the election will be deferred or not, the CEC said, there is no decision of deferring the election.

He said if BNP participates in the election, then we may reschedule if necessary. There was no talk of deferring.

In response to the question that if BNP does not participate whether it will complete the election or not, whether it will give 100 per cent satisfaction to the EC, the CEC said, “I have not come to reply on these ...  We have called on the BNP, not once, not twice, not five times but 10 times. It has been said that if BNP comes there is still a chance. I also said in my speech that time is not over. There is still a chance.”

The CEC said, “We have always talked about dialogue. I have always talked about compromise. I talked about the festive and favourable atmosphere. If there is consensus among all the parties, then things become more favourable for us.”

The CEC said that they still hope that BNP will participate in the elections. If BNP comes, it will be good for EC, it will be good for the whole nation. They want the election to be participatory. Then the election will be fruitful.

Decision of deploying army will be taken after discussion

In response to the question of whether the administration will be reshuffled or not, CEC counter-questioned, who did the administration reshuffle and when?

He said, they will do what they think is good for the sake of the election. But will not go beyond the jurisdiction. We will do what is within jurisdiction.

Earlier in 2018, the 11th national parliament election and before and after that, questions were raised about the role of police and administration officials in the local government elections. EC's control over them was not seen at that time. The current commission also took cognizance of the matter initially.

The commission led by Kazi Habibul Awal announced its action plan in September last year regarding the 12th national elections. There they identified 14 challenges or obstacles in the way of fair elections. The second was “impartial performance of field level officials, especially police and administration officials who have responsibility for elections”.

Regarding the deployment of the army, the CEC said, the decision about the matter will be finalised after discussion. If necessary and EC wants it the government will provide it. There is no doubt about it.