Govt, EC must create atmosphere for participatory polls


.There are 10-11 months left for the 11th national parliament election, in accordance to the constitution. Preparations have already begun. Foreign quarters are also interested in this election, given the one-sided parliamentary polls of 2014. During the recent visit of a delegation from the European Parliament, its members made it clear that the objective of their visit was the coming election.

During the visit, the delegation members met the speaker of parliament, the chief election commissioner and representatives of various political parties and the civil society. The election, good governance, and the people’s democratic rights featured repeatedly during the interactions. Head of the delegation Jean Lambert termed the present circumstances in Bangladesh as difficult and challenging, saying that they wanted to see a participatory election. They wanted assurance that the election commission would be able to function independently and that the people would be able to vote freely.

The European Parliament sends its observers to all of our national elections. However, they did not send any observers to the 2014 election as it was a one-sided one. Whether they will send any observers this time all depends on how the election will be.

During a meeting with chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda, the European Parliament delegation wanted to know whether Khaleda Zia, imprisoned in the Zia Orphanage Trust case, would be able to contest in the election. In reply, Huda said it is up to the court to decide. The election commission had nothing to do.

We also feel that politics should not be used in the issue of Khaleda Zia’s legal battle. In the past, many leaders of the ruling party who were sentenced in the lower courts, contested in the polls after appealing in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Many of them became members of parliament and ministers.

It is the responsibility of the government and the election commission to ensure a fair atmosphere for the election, that is, a level-playing field. However, though the ruling party leaders have begun election campaigning, the opposition leaders and activists remain in hiding, in fear of arrest. Many of the BNP’s central and district leaders have been arrested. They are not being allowed to hold public meetings. The election commission cannot shirk its responsibility by saying it will do its duties once the election schedule is announced.

Since the arrest of Khaleda Zia, the BNP has restricted its programmes to human chains, hunger strikes and submitting a memorandum. This indicates that despite adverse circumstances, the party is willing to go to the election. They stated this to the European Parliament delegation as well. The Awami League’s general secretary has also said that they want the BNP to come to the elections. In that case, everyone should work towards creating an environment  conducive to the election.

However, there is need to change the fact that every time before the elections, foreign quarters come and urge us to hold free and fair elections, then afterwards question the election. This is shameful for any democratic and self-respecting nation. We can change this by creating precedence in holding free and fair elections. We hope our political leadership comes to its senses and do not humiliate the nation against by holding a questionable national election.

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