Electoral code of conduct: Who will wake them if EC sleeps awake

Prothom Alo illustration

The election commission is as excited to bring foreign observers as inert they are of compelling the political parties and candidates to follow the electoral code of conduct. Even after the news media are pointing this out, their stance in this regard is not only questionable but also unacceptable.

According to the schedule of the 7 January election, the campaign of the candidates and the parties is supposed to start from 18 December. But, even before that some of the potential candidates of the Awami League have launched campaigns for themselves and their party in the name of buying nomination papers. Some even brought out processions with the placard urging them to vote for the Awami League nominated candidates in their symbol boat. Many came with big processions and motorcades.

But the election commission does not think the pleading for votes before the stipulated time of campaigning as breach of code. Their logic is, this did not happen in front of the returning officer office. The code of conduct that is announced for the national election is not only applicable for the candidate but also for the political parties as well. This said, any registered party or its nominated candidate or any other person on their behalf cannot start the election campaign three weeks before the stipulated date of the election.

The reality is, many leaders and ministers of the ruling party have been seeking votes for boat from many days ago. The EC said, it has nothing to do about it before announcing the schedule. It will take necessary measures once the schedule is announced. Now they are acting as if they are not seeing the matters that are breaching the codes. Even an aspirant of the ruling party of Chapainawabganj met with the co-chairman of the party’s election conducting committee along with his police officer brother and bouquets of flowers. This created rife criticisms. If the EC sleeps awake, who will wake them?  

An election commissioner presented a hilarious logic in favour of not changing the administration and the law enforcing forces. He said the change may bring chaos in the administration. The section 120 of the constitution says, “The President shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to it such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of its functions under this Part.”

As the EC took a stern stance against the rigging and irregularities of the Gaibandha by-election, people might have some hope that it will not follow the footsteps of its predecessors. It will not bother to take the necessary steps for compelling the stakeholders of the election to follow the code of conduct. It is sad but true that the EC could not even take actions against the people who were involved with election irregularities and rigging in that by-election. It is indeed their surrender to the executive division.

The EC officials are saying it is not their duty to oversee which party is participating in the election or not. But how may they evade their duties of compelling the parties and candidates that are participating in the election?

The way EC is showing insouciance about compelling the electoral code of conducts, the chaos will increase once the official election campaign commences. The situation may be such that the EC will have no control over the parties and candidates. On the contrary the candidates will control the EC.