How fruitful will EC’s investigation be

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The Election Commission (EC) has decided to take action against 134 officials in connection to the irregularities in Gaibandha-5 by-election.

Apart from the returning officer, the list includes additional deputy commissioner (general) of Gaibandha, an executive magistrate, 126 presiding officers and five sub-inspectors (SI) of police.

But questions have been raised about why the deputy commissioner and police superintendent, respectively the top officials of district administration and police department, were left out.

As per Prothom Alo report, the commission has found evidence of irregularities in 125 out of 145 poling centres of Gaibandha-5 by-election.

Though they could identify more than a hundred people including the presiding officers assigned to these centers, they were unable to find out which candidate did they work for.

There cannot be 'coordinated and well-planned irregularities', as put in words by the EC, without being fueled by the supporters of a particular candidate. This would be considered a major failure of this investigation.

Still, the Election Commission’s decision to take action against 134 people for irregularities in the Gaibandha by-election can be commended.

Despite there being serious rigging in many elections and by-elections in the past, the commission instead of taking steps against the responsible has spoken in favour of them.

Even though the current Election Commission hasn’t been able to catch for whom the theft has been committed, it has caught the theft.

But even then the question and suspicion which arises very naturally is, did the investigation committee really wish to find out the persons behind the irregularities?

Chief election commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal announced their decision of taking action against 134 officials from the election building in capital’s Agargaon last Thursday afternoon.

EC will send a letter to the public administration ministry to take departmental action against the additional deputy commissioner (General) of Gaibandha according to the Election Officers (Special Law) Act, 1991.

EC will also write to concerned authorities for departmental action against 125 of the presiding officers under the same act. Besides, a presiding officer has been temporarily suspended.

The EC will send letter to the concerned authorities for taking departmental action against those five SI as well under the same act.

Notably, there was a by-election in Gaibandha-5 (Saghata-Fulchhari) constituency on last 12 October. Seeing the irregularities in all the centres during the voting via CCTV from the election commission headquarters in Dhaka the CEC and other commissioners revoked the entire election.

There has been no previous example of an election or by-election in any parliamentary seat being canceled in the country. Regardless of how the election was conducted, at the end of the day their only duty was to announce the results.

The main opposition BNP did not participate in the Gaibandha by-election. The Jatiya Party candidate was the main rival of the ruling party candidate.

After the Gaibandha by-election was called off, a class of officials not only tried to cover up their own wrongdoing, some of the officials involved with the election duty even challenged the commission's decision.

Allegedly several presiding officers being instigated by the ruling party candidate and leaders-activists informed the returning officer in writing that there was no irregularity in the polling centres.

It is necessary to take legal action against those involved in the irregularities during the by-election and those who tried to cover it up. While this decision may not help restore the electoral system in the future, it will undoubtedly send a strong message to the people concerned.