The EC, however, does not have the jurisdiction to implement the proposals of the political parties regarding the polls-time government. Constitution has to be amended to induct these proposals. These proposals, therefore, would not be implemented if the ruling Awami League, which has an absolute majority in the parliament, does not want them. The EC, however, can inform the government of these proposals if they deem these helpful for conducting a fair election.

As per the constitution, the election would be conducted under the incumbent government. The incumbent prime minister would serve until the prime minister elected in the 12th parliamentary election takes over.

Although there was no specific agenda for the dialogues, polls-time government and the use of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) came out as important issues. Most of the political parties demurred about the use of EVM but the ruling Awami League wanted EVMs in all 300 constituencies.

On the election-time government, The AL said it was a ‘past and closed chapter’. The election would be held with the current government at the helm. The government would do only routine works during the election. All the important government bodies including the administration and law enforcement agencies would be placed under the supervision of the EC during the election.

The proposals placed by different parties during the dialogue include dissolving parliament after the announcement of the polls schedule, setting up CCTV cameras in polling centres, deploying the army during the election, giving magistracy power to the army during the election, withdrawing political cases and harassment, ensuring level playing field for all parties, not making deputy commissioners the returning officers during the election, stopping use of religion in the election and taking effective measures against the use of black money and muscle power in the election.

The EC would fix a framework reviewing the recommendations of the dialogue. Then a final framework would be placed, said an EC source.

Election commissioner Md Alamgir told journalists on Monday that they are reviewing the proposals placed by the parties. Roughly three types of recommendations came up during the dialogue. Some of these recommendations are not within the EC's jurisdiction. A decision will be taken after a discussion on them.

The EC may forward these proposals to the relevant authorities, he said, adding that no final decision has been made as yet.

Ministries under the EC

Field-level government officials discharge important duties during the election. Police, administration and armed forces play an important role during the election. Twelve political parties in the dialogue proposed that home, public administration, local government, defence, finance and some other vital ministries be brought under the direct control of the EC during the election. Islami Front, Congress, JASAD, Samyabadi Dal, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, Tariqat Federation, Workers Party, Khelafat Majlish, Bangladesh Muslim League, Biplobi Workers Party, Khelafat Andolon and Jamiat-e Ulamae Islam Bangladesh made these proposals.

Workers Party proposed home, public administration and local government ministries should be taken under the jurisdiction of the EC during the election. The party proposed that EC should be authorised of transferring, giving promotions and penalising election-related officials for three months before and after the election. They think the constitution would need not be amended for this.

Tariqat Federation proposed a particular monitoring cell comprising officials of home and defence ministries under the supervision of the EC. JASAD proposed the executive department brought under the EC as per their demand.

Poll- time government

Ten parties proposed a new government during the election. Some of them sought a neutral government while some wanted government consisting of members from all parties. Krishak Sramik Janata League, Ganaforum, Khelafat Majlish, Jamiat-e Ulamae Islam, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolon, Biplobi Workers Party, Bangladesh Muslim League, Gana Front, Sangskritik Muktijote and Bangladesh Jatiya Party proposed new government during the polls.

Bangladesh Congress wants measures so that parliament and cabinet get dissolved after the announcement of the polls schedule while NDM said the chief election commissioner should act as ‘Super Prime Minister’ during the polls. The EC should appoint new secretaries in public administration, home, information and local government ministries.

Framework of government

Bangladesh Muslim League gave a proposal to form a polls-time government comprising of representatives of all political parties. Sangskritik Muktijote wanted a National Council of all registered political parties. The council would act as the government during the election, they proposed.

Gano Front proposed a national government consisting of representatives from all political parties that had representation in successive parliaments since the independence, except representatives of controversial elections such as 1986, 1988, 15 February 1996, 2014 and 2018. But the members of this national government would not be able to take part in the election.

Bangladesh Jatiya Party proposed a polls-time government of all registered parties.

EVM issue

Jatiya Party (JaPa), the main opposition party in parliament, and 13 other political parties have taken a stand against the use of EVM. The ruling Awami League and three other parties spoke in favour of EVM. Awami League, Ganatantri Party, Bikalpadhara wanted EVM in all 300 constituencies while Tariqat Federation wanted EVM in at least 150 constituencies. Four other parties (Workers Party, JASAD, NPP and Bangladesh Congress) wanted EVM under some conditions.

Asked about the EC’s dialogue with political parties, Sushashoner Jonno Nagarik secretary Badiul Alam Majumder told Prothom Alo that the proposals regarding polls-time government and EVM are noteworthy. EC’s role is to inform the government about these recommendations if it finds conducting a fair election impossible without the implementation of these proposals.

The crisis will deepen if a one-sided election is conducted flouting these recommendations, he added.

Badiul Alam concluded that it is not possible to conduct a fair election with a political government in power.

* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten into English by Galib Ashraf