The Chattogram City Corporation election, postponed in March last year due to coronavirus, is to be held on 27 January. There are seven candidates contesting for the post of mayor, 172 candidates for 40 general councillor posts and 57 candidates for 14 reserved posts. Although several political parties are contesting in this election, the major contest will be between ruling Awami League and BNP.
It is obvious that there will be campaigns during the election and public meetings will be held. But who will ensure the health rules and electoral laws are being followed during the pandemic period? It must be the Election Commission. The EC postponed the election due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the pandemic hasn't ended yet. What is the reason they are holding the election amid the pandemic now?
The Election Commission has asked everyone to run the election campaign in compliance with the health rules. Where people are complacent about the health rules at home and outside, hoping people will follow hygiene rules during election campaign is nothing but sheer foolishness.
A picture published in Prothom Alo on the first day of the election campaign shows Awami League mayoral candidate M Rezaul Karim Chowdhury arranging a motorcade procession. Not only were his supporters in the cars, some of them were standing on either side of the road to greet the mayoral candidate.
On the other hand, BNP mayoral candidate Shahadat Hossain has also campaigned in different areas with the people. The election campaign with a motorcade is a clear violation of the law. In addition, most of the activists and supporters of the two candidates wear not wearing masks.
The KM Nurul Huda Commission has no right or power to put the health of the people at risk in the name of elections. Physicians and health experts have repeatedly been asking everyone to wear face masks and maintain social distance until the vaccine is available.
The government has also announced- no mask no service. Moreover, Chattogram has the second highest number of infections next to Dhaka. The EC may say that this election has to be held due to legal obligations. Although this applies to national elections, the date of local government elections is decided at the executive level.
The returning officer of the election said that a mobile court will be set up to make the candidates comply with the code of conduct and election law of the candidates. But why didn't they do it at the beginning of the official campaign? Deploying law enforcement officers on the ground or setting up mobile courts will not benefit people after violating the law and hygiene rules already. The work had to be done beforehand.
Everyone hopes that the Chattogram city election will be fair. They also hope people’s health will not be put at risk in the name of election campaign or voting. We believe the concerned authorities will understand this. Let both the vote and the voter live.