Decisive test for the election commission

Update:

Election campaigning has come to a close and now all that is left is the actual voting. The voting will commence at 8 am on 30 December and continue till 4 pm. The Gaibandha-2 constituency voting has been postponed to 27 January due to the death of the BNP candidate TIM Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury.

There are 39 registered parties taking part in this election, prominent among which are the ruling Awami League and the major opposition BNP. In that sense, this is an inclusive election. But the question remains, despite being inclusive, will this election be free, fair and peaceful? Will everyone, regardless of religion, race or gender, be able to exercise their right to vote?

Every election has three phases. There is the pre-election phase which comprises the campaigning, the actual voting, and then the post-voting phase. The election commission failed miserably in performing its duty during the pre-election phase.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a decisive test for the election commission. It must not fail. The chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda on Friday instructed the law enforcement agencies to take all security measures so that the voters can cast their votes in a peaceful, fair and festive environment.

In Bangladesh, the election has always been a festive occasion. The voter turnout is also much higher than many developed countries. However, unfortunately, from the every outset this election has been fraught with fear, disorder and violence. While the chief election commissioner was directing the law enforcement agencies to ensure a festive environment during the election, reports were pouring in about the opposition candidates’ polling agents being threatened in their homes. And the arrests and fictitious cases continue.

All said and done, we still look to the election commission to at least ensure the actual voting is carried out in a free and fair manner. The role of the law enforcement, the returning officers, the presiding and the assistant presiding officers, is vital at this juncture. The presence of the polling agents at the polling centres is extremely important too. They will monitor whether there are any irregularities being carried out. The election commission must ensure that each and every candidate has their polling agents present at the voting centres.

We believe if law and order can be ensured all over the country along with the security of the voters, the voting can be held smoothly. This is essential if the election is to be credible. And it is also imperative for the police to stop harassing the leaders and the activists of the opposition. After all, if this continues, this will hamper the environment for a free election.

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