In the meantime, the parties that have submitted names are against having these made public. But publishing the names is very important in the selection process. There are two instances that indicate just why this is so important. The list given by the ruling party's election ally and opposition in the parliament, Jatiya Party, features at number one the name of former secretary Ruksana Kader, who is the wife of the party's secretary general Mujibul Haque. Her name had already been suggested during the party's dialogue with the president. The daily Samakal quoted a reliable source in publishing this bit of news, saying that the 10 persons proposed by the party included two of her colleagues, former judges. Many on the list have even sought nomination in the last election. This includes a well-known journalist leader who had once contested the election from the ruling party and was defeated.
Former secretary Kamrun Nahar's name appears on the list of proposed names. She is the wife of the person providing secretarial assistance to the search committee. We do not know if he was consulted before her name was proposed, but if her name was given from any political party, the reason behind her name being proposed needs to be clarified. Surely they must be aware that it is not appropriate to propose the name of any one from the families of those involved in the selection process. Any name that may give rise to questions of possible vested interests or nepotism is totally unwarranted in the case of selections for constitutional posts.
Jatiya Party secretary general Mujibul Haque offered an explanation was to why the parties do not want to publish the names they have proposed. He said, "Controversy may be created if the names are published." He pointed out that Awami League and the other parties didn't publish the names they had proposed either. While we may not know the reason behind Awami League not publicising the names, it can easily be assumed that this is their strategic stance. And the motive behind the logic offered by the Jatiya Party leader is obvious. If controversy is generated before the appointments, they apprehend that their expectations will not be met. This will disrupt the chance of relatives getting benefits during the elections.
A few persons whose names have been suggested for appointment to the election commission, have already said that they are not interested in this responsibility and have requested for their names to be dropped from the list.
Workers Party seems to have the same stance about publishing the names on the lists given in by political parties. The party's leader Rashed Khan Menon has only demanded that the list of the 10 names that will be sent to the president, be published. He did not reveal the names they have recommended.
The search committee that formed the commission in 2017 also took proposals from the political parties, but did not reveal the names on the lists. But later it was discovered that the proposals of Tariqat Federation, an ally of the ruling alliance, were given surprising importance in the appointment of the chief election commissioner and the commissioners. It was later found out that it was part of Awami League's strategy to get its allies to propose names of its choice. It won't be understood if the same strategy is being adopted this time too, unless the lists submitted by the parties are made public.
The scope for submitting names this time has been expanded even further. It has been kept open for a number of professional bodies and general citizens too. However, it is no secret that the leaders of these professional bodies are all supporters of the ruling party. And with the opposition comprising left, right and centre, boycotting the selection process and expressing no confidence in it, the general people too lack enthusiasm. Had they been interested, the number of individual proposals would have crossed a few hundred, maybe even reached a thousand. It is only natural then that those close to the seat of power and other such interest groups are more eager about this exercise.
A few persons whose names have been suggested for appointment to the election commission, have already said that they are not interested in this responsibility and have requested for their names to be dropped from the list. Given the objections of the opposition parties regarding the selection process and the credibility of the committee, many are unwilling to risk making themselves controversial. A few of them have said that their names have been proposed without their approval or even their knowledge. That is very wrong. A party cannot forcefully impose their decision on anyone unless it is a member of the party. That is why there is need for transparency in the party's nominations.
The main demand of the civil society representatives who offered their views when invited by the committee, was that no one who receives any special privileges be given place in the election commission. Is that where the politicians fear lay? Is it akin to political parties keeping their income and expenditure a secret? They follow the rules and submit the record of their income and expenditure to the election commission, but are vehemently against making this public. And so the public never gets to know the truth behind the mystery of so many businesspersons getting nomination. Is it because they pay fat sums of money to the party or are there any other transactions?
This hide-and-seek with the people must come to an end. The election commission appointment act is riddled with loopholes and inconsistencies, but it does speak of neutrality and transparency in the selection process. In that light, the committee should overlook the objections of the political parties and thus lighten much of the liability placed upon it. Then, at least, there may be lesser chance of leaders' wives, relatives and persons who had sought party nomination, finding place in the election commission.
* Kamal Ahmed is a senior journalist.
* This column appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten by Ayesha Kabir for the English edition.