Electoral laws and rules: EC puts forth different explanations everyday

Election Commission building.

The election commission (EC) is coming up with different explanations of the electoral laws and rules every day. This constitutional body has given four different explanations in the last four days regarding the electoral code of conduct and independent candidates.

Analysts have expressed concern over this inconsistency, stating that the different explanations presented by the election commissioners are causing confusion and raising questions about their efficiency.

While speaking to the media in Rajshahi on Tuesday, election commissioner Rasheda Sultana said partisan MPs must resign if they want to contest the upcoming parliamentary election - this is what the law says.

However, the law has not said anything like this. The MPs will contest the election remaining in their posts, says the constitution.

On the following day of Rasheda Sultana’s statement, the election commission issued a media release saying that partisan MPs won’t have to resign to compete in the election as independent candidates.

The media release, however, did not mention that commissioner Rasheda Sultana said so. Rather, the release said media outlets ran reports that said if any incumbent partisan MP wants to contest the election, they will have to resign from the MP post.

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But, according to the Representation of the People Order, 1972, anyone who wants to contest as an independent candidate will have to submit a list containing signatures of 1 per cent of the voters of the concerned constituency along with the nomination form.

But, if the candidate was previously elected as a member of parliament in any election, he will not have to submit that list.

Earlier on Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal told the media that the time to enforce the electoral code of conduct has not come yet. The code of conduct will be applicable only after the finalisation of the candidates. Until then no political party has any obstacle to run campaigns with their plough or boat or other electoral symbols, he added.

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”.

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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.

In the wake of criticisms, the CEC changed his stance the next day. Addressing the inauguration of the training for the members of the Electoral Inquiry Committee on Monday, Habibul Awal said section 12 of the electoral code of conduct no campaign can be run before the pre-election time. The political parties cannot run any campaign in favour or against any prospective candidate.

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Speaking to Prothom Alo, Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said the explanations of the election commissioners convey that they do not have any idea of the electoral rules and laws.

This commission has been appointed strategically to implement the agendas of the ruling party. They have been creating controversies and confusions one after another.

Taking a dig at them, he further stated that their behaviour proves how competent they are to carry out the responsibilities at a constitutional body like the election commission.