Tomorrow the Gazipur elections are to take place. Given the circumstances, this local government election is of extreme significance. People all over the country, not just in Gazipur, are watching this election.
While the political parties and candidates are competing, it is the constitutional duty of the election commission to conduct this election. In the context of our political culture, it is not expected that the political parties and candidates will voluntarily adhere to the election code of conduct. They will resort to all sorts of underhand moves, and the use of force, to ensure victory. They will not hesitate to even use the administration and the law enforcement agencies to this end. So it is the responsibility of the election commission to keep a sharp look out for any sort of violation of the rules during the election.
It is now to be seen whether the election commission, under KM Nurul Huda, is able to carry out this duty. It slipped in at the very outset by failing to hold this election as per schedule. Once the election schedule is declared, it is unlawful to postpone or suspend the election without consulting the election commission. But that is exactly what happened in the case of the Gazipur election. Later, following appeals from the Awami League and BNP candidates, and the election commission, the court withdrew the suspension and directed the commission to hold the election within 30 June. The election commission can take no credit for this. They have failed to take any effective measures to hold the stalled election of Dhaka North city corporation. No election can be held up for months on end on the question of demarcation.
Coming to the rescheduled Gazipur election to be held on 26 June, it is hoped that it will take place in an environment free from fear. But what steps has the commission taken to ensure such circumstances? There is a glimmer of hope in the sense that the unrest and tensions before the Khulna polls are absent here. The contestants are campaigning more or less freely, though BNP has complained that some of their workers were arrested during the campaign. It seems the situation is under control.
Yet the voters are apprehensive about the last 24 hours and the voting itself. The election commission must assuage such fears s the people can freely go and cast their votes. Unlike other elections, they must not go to the centres only to find their votes have already been cast.
The role of the polling agents appointed by the candidates is very important in ensuring a free, fair and peaceful election. It would be obvious that there are dubious intentions if the agents of any party are driven away from the centres or threatened. This must not happen in Gazipur.
The election commission is now faced with a significant challenge of overcoming all obstacles and apprehensions to hold a free, fair and peaceful election in Gazpiur.