Electoral violence: Why does the EC remain indifferent?

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

With election day approaching, tension among the leaders and activists of competing candidates of the 12th parliamentary elections has been intensifying. In some places, they are not only issuing warnings to others but also carrying out armed attacks on the activists of the competing candidates. A number of incidents of vandalising the electoral offices and carrying out arson attacks have also been recorded.

Such incidents of violent attacks until 24 December were recorded at more than 50 constituencies. Different media outlets have published reports of 25 such attacks in the last two days.

According to a Prothom Alo report, a persona, Eskendar Kha, 70, hacked to death in Madaripur’s Kalkini on Saturday. Independent candidate Tahmina claimed the victim to be her worker. Milon Kha, son of the deceased, said his father was a supporter of the electoral symbol “eagle” of Tahmina Begum. Supporters of the “boat” killed his father.

Earlier, when the boat supporters brought out a procession in support of the independent candidate, activists of the opposition camp attacked them and blasted crude bombs. Incumbent MP, Abdus Sobhan Golap, has been contesting the election with boat symbol while incumbent reserved women seat MP, Tahmina Begum, has been competing as an independent candidate in the 12th parliamentary election.

Before this, a youth Lalon Fakir, 27, was killed reportedly in an attack of boat supporters in Pirojpur Sadar upazila on 10 December. He was a supporter of independent candidate AKM Awal in that constituency. The incident took place following vandalising the electoral office of Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul, who is a boat candidate in the forthcoming election.

Such incidents are breaching of the electoral code of conduct and at the same time criminal offences too. Despite the incidents, neither the Election Commission nor the law enforcement were seen taking any effective steps. The police visit the spot when the incident is over. The high officials of the EC have been issuing warnings against vote rigging on the polling day when the activists of competing candidates have been attacking each other. Don’t they have anything to do with the violence being carried out at different places before the election and innocent people are falling victim to those?

The government policymakers have been talking about taking stringent measures against the perpetrators who have been carrying out arson attacks on bus and train when the key opposition and its like-minded parties have been enforcing hartal and blockade. In many cases, remand has been granted to people who were detained as suspects. But the government is not seen taking any such step regarding electoral violence. Is it because all the people involved with the acts of violence are leaders and activists of the governing party?

This ambivalence is not acceptable at all. Stringent action against terror activities, whether conducted in the name of election or movement, must be taken. People involved with violent activities must be brought to book by investigating every incident properly. Otherwise the situation might go out of control, which is not expected.

The strategy the government has adopted to show the forthcoming parliamentary elections as competitive by allowing the party leaders to run as independent candidates against the “boat” candidates might work as boomerang if violence is not curbed. That’s why the law must be allowed to take its own course.

The people do not want to listen to precepts from the election commission, rather they want to see the steps the constitutional body have been taking to force the candidates follow the electoral codes of conduct.