The prime minister’s political advisor HT Imam on Thursday placed two demands on behalf of the ruling party at the election commission. The first demand is that no fresh demarcations should be made to the parliamentary constituencies. The election commission has already, however, drawn up a draft of changed demarcations of 40 constituencies. It is not only Awami League, but BNP and other parties have protested against this. A hearing in this regard will begin on 21 April. We hope the election commission takes the views of all sides into cognizance. The hearing can be made public so as to avoid controversy.
The second demand made by Awami League is unjustified and unacceptable, given the prevailing circumstances. The election code of conduct places a bar on ministers and members of parliament campaigning in local government elections so as it keep these polls free and fair. We do not understand why the MPs should be allowed to campaign when, as it is, the ruling party has total control over the administration and everything else. The MPs are involved in local development work and so their campaigning will definitely go to tremendously the advantage of the candidate they back. That is why the existing code of conduct must not be changed.
The prime minister’s political advisor stated that everything would come to a standstill if the local MPs could not carry on their work in the constituencies or take part in the campaigning. That is ridiculous. Campaigning for the local government elections is carried out for a short span of time. Nothing will come to a standstill if the MPs hold back from their work in their respective areas during this period. Their ‘work’ in the constituencies during the election will likely change the circumstances. An Awami League delegation raised a similar demand during the pourashava polls and the election commission was prudent enough at the time to reject the demand.
The Cumilla and Rangpur city elections are ample evidence that the polls can run well without the active presence of the MPs. Both these elections were free and fair and reflected the will of the people. And so the election commission should remain firm in its stances regarding the Gazipur and Khulna elections.
According to the election commission, the Khulna and Gazipur city corporation elections will be held on 15 May and the Barishal, Rajshahi and Sylhet city corporation elections after Eid. After that, the countdown to the national parliamentary elections will begin. And so the election commission should not bring any changes to the code of conduct that will disrupt the election environment. In fact, it should take further measures to ensure a free and fair election.
Till 2008, all parliaments were dissolved before the election. In keeping with the constitution, the next election will be held with the parliament remaining in place. In that case, if the rules concerning the facilities for the MPs remain intact, this will be a gross discrimination against the candidates who are not members of parliament. The matter needs serious consideration.