EC must be held accountable for poll violence

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Both the picture published on the front page of Prothom Alo on Tuesday and Wednesday bear testimony as to how the seven-phase union parishad (UP) polls went. As seen in the picture published on Wednesday, four of the six people who attacked the opponent with firearms were followers of the candidates of boat symbol. The remaining two were followers of rebel candidates.

And in Tuesday's picture, it was seen that a farmland next to a polling centre in Satkania upazila of Chattogram had turned into a battlefield.

Not only in Satkania, UP polls in almost all the districts and upazilas of the country were mired in violence, occupation of polling centres and vandalism. A total of 101 people were killed in the polls violence, with the highest number being 30 in the second phase. Elections are for implementing people’s right to vote to choose the public representatives. Why is there so much violence and loss of life?

People usually learn from experience. However, the commission headed by KM Nurul Huda did not feel the urge to take that lesson resulting in such a high level of unwarranted incidents during the polls. In the past, we have seen clashes between the rival parties during the polls. The parties would blame each other for the incident.

However, this time the clash was between the Awami League nominated candidates and the party’s rebel candidates who did not get the nomination. The main opposition BNP had boycotted the election, though some of its leaders took part in the election as independent candidates. Candidates from other parties did not even dare to run an election campaign in fear of the followers of the ruling party. The battle for the control of the election campaign was between the Awami League nominated candidates and rebel contestants.

The Election Commission (EC) decided to hold the UP polls in seven phases to ensure a fair and peaceful electoral environment. But the reality is quite the opposite. The severity of violence was higher in the second phase than the first phase, in the third phase than the second phase. The constitutional body which was responsible for maintaining a peaceful environment, the Election Commission, had remained silent right from the beginning. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda has repeatedly said that the commission is not liable for the polls violence and that the responsibility must be taken by the parties and the candidates contesting in the polls.

However, the commission and the CEC cannot avoid their responsibility by simply passing the liability to the political parties and the candidates.

The law enforcement agencies and public administration work under the EC during the polls. What is the necessity of the Election Commission if it refuses to take the responsibility of polls violence?

What happened in the UP elections is just like what used to happen in occupying char lands - extreme use of muscle power. The anarchy during the polls has reached such a level that even a 13-year-old child was not spared from the wrath of the goons, let alone the followers of the candidates from the opposition parties.

Such kind of violence is not acceptable in any civilised country. The EC must bear the liability of what they did in the name of election over the last five years. Whoever takes charge of the EC in future, it will be difficult for them to recover from the damage done by the previous commission. As a constitutional organisation, the present Election Commission can never be exempted from this responsibility.