The ruling Awami League appears to have ignored the electoral law and its own charter in the nomination process for parliamentary candidates in the next national election as the party didn’t allow its grassroots leaders to make preliminary selection of contenders.
Section 90B (iv) of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) empowers the grassroots of all registered political parties, including the AL, to play a role in choosing parliamentary candidates.
According to the RPO section, the grassroots will send a list of prospective candidates from each constituency to the party’s central parliamentary board, which will finalise the nomination of candidates, taking the list into consideration.
The provision introduced before the 2008 national polls made it mandatory for the parliamentary board of a political party to finalise nomination from the lists.
It was introduced to curb alleged nomination trade and strengthen democratic practice in selecting parliamentary contenders of the political parties.
But the provision was later relaxed through an amendment, leaving the issue of picking candidates from the lists to the discretion of the political parties.
In line with the RPO section, the AL included a provision in its constitution in 2008, empowering the grassroots to send lists of prospective candidates from each constituency to the central parliamentary board, which will finalise nominations from the lists, according to section 27 of the AL charter.
In fact, inclusion of such provision in the party charter is one of the criteria for getting registered with the Election Commission. Registration of a political party may be cancelled for violating the provision.
The AL largely followed the newly introduced provision in nominating its parliamentary candidates for the 2008 national polls. It had asked its grassroots committees to send lists of a maximum of five possible candidates from each constituency.
But this time, the situation is different.
A number of AL grassroots leaders told this newspaper that they were not asked by the party to prepare any lists of parliamentary aspirants in their areas for sending those to the party’s parliamentary board.
A day after the ruling AL started selling nomination forms among aspiring candidates, The Daily Star yesterday talked to more than a dozen grassroots leaders of the party in Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Comilla, Khulna, Jessore, and Chattogram.
“In the previous election [in 2008], the party central committee directed us to draw up a list of nomination seekers, so we prepared a list and forwarded it to the central committee,” said AL lawmaker from Pabna-5 Golam Faruk Khandaker, also general secretary of the district AL unit.
Advocate Shakhawat Hossain, president of Chatmohor upazila AL unit, Mokhlesur Rahman, secretary of Ishwardi upazila AL unit and Al Mahamud Delwar, president of Santhia upazila AL unit, also confirmed that they didn’t get any instruction to prepare lists of prospective candidates.
“We didn’t hold any meeting to select possible candidates. We have confidence in the prime minister’s decision on selection of our parliamentary candidate,” said Sahinuzzaman Shahin, general secretary of Sujanagar upazila AL unit in Pabna.
Talukder Abdul Khaleq, president of Khulna city AL, and Panchanon Biswas, president of Khulna district AL, also said the party high-ups didn’t instruct them to make any list of prospective candidates.
M Salam, general secretary of Chattogram [north] district unit AL, said they had been directed to send a list of prospective candidates in the last local government polls. But they didn’t get such an instruction for the next national polls.
Layeb Uddin Lablu, joint general secretary of Rajshahi district unit AL, said, “A few months ago, our party chief told us that she has employed different mechanisms to conduct surveys. She will nominate candidates on the basis of the survey findings.”
Talking to this newspaper, former election commissioner Sohul Hussain said the EC should look into whether political parties are following the RPO provision.
Contacted, Rafiqul Islam, an election commissioner, said that if the EC intervenes in this matter, political parties would use different means to show that they have selected their candidates as per the grassroots’ recommendations.
“Besides, the Election Commission does not have powers to take action against a political party if it violates the RPO provision,” he claimed.
Asked about the RPO provision, AL Presidium Member Abdul Matin Khashru said party President Sheikh Hasina is the chief of the party’s nomination board, and she knows all about the grassroots leaders.
“She knows who have the possibility of winning the election as she keeps all information about the grassroots leaders throughout the year. She has all the details …
“The party chief knows better than anyone about who are the party’s prospective candidates in the next election … This is our policy for selecting the prospective candidates,” he mentioned.
Seeking anonymity, several grassroots leaders said the party high-ups didn’t ask them to send lists possibly because it could intensify intra-party conflicts.
Now in each constituency, at least five to six AL leaders are in the race to obtain party nomination for contesting the national polls.
Over the last two days, around 3,200 AL leaders collected the forms, and 460 of them already submitted those to the party’s election steering office in the capital’s Dhanmondi area.
The AL parliamentary board sits today to discuss how to scrutinise the forms of a big number of nomination seekers.
“Tomorrow [today] we will set a modality to scrutinise the nomination forms and select the right candidates. Besides, we will decide whether to take interviews of the prospective candidates individually or group-wise,” AL Joint General Secretary Mahabubul Alam Hanif told this newspaper.
[Our correspondents in Rajshahi, Pabna, Chittagong and Comilla contributed to this report.]