Search for New Election Commission: AL, BNP at loggerheads

After months of calm, the country’s politics could heat up again over the process of forming a new Election Commission, which would oversee the 2019 general election.

The tenure of the existing EC expires in February.

The ruling Awami League-led alliance wants the new EC to be formed by a search committee under the jurisdiction of the president, a power vested in him by the constitution.

On the other hand, the BNP-led 20-party alliance and other political parties not aligned to the AL-led 14-party alliance want dialogue with all stakeholders before formation of such a committee. They have warned the government against any move to have a “subservient election commission”.

The current EC, led by Kazi Rakib Uddin Ahmad, drew a lot of flak over how it conducted polls during its four-year tenure. It held a general election in 2014 that the BNP-led alliance boycotted. It held city corporation, municipality, and upazila parishad elections that were marred by violence and irregularities.

Its worst performance was in the union parishad elections earlier this year when 126 people died in violence.

The ongoing debate over how the EC should be formed began after Law Minister Anisul Huq had said a search committee would be set up to form the new EC.

His statement was reinforced when AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam on Thursday said it was the president’s jurisdiction to form a search committee for forming the new EC.

He called upon the BNP not to make the EC and other constitutional bodies controversial and that the EC formed by the president must be “acceptable to all”.

A number of AL senior leaders, including Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, yesterday told this newspaper that the president would constitute an acceptable EC as it was his job.

“We believe the honourable president will form a neutral commission and for that he might take any step,” he said.

But BNP leaders think the government wants to form a “Kazi Rakib Uddin style” EC paving the way            for holding another “one-sided” election, like the one held on January 5, 2014.

Top BNP leaders have already warned the government against any move to form a “subservient election commission”.

Sources inside the BNP said the party was preparing a proposal on the formation of the “search committee” and on ways to ensure neutral election commissioners.

It has even moved to create opinions in its favour at home and abroad.

The party is also getting ready to respond to the government’s call to submit a list of individuals for the “search committee” or the election commission, they said.

Addressing different programmes over the last two weeks, senior BNP leaders said that they want to talk to the government on the process of the EC formation.

“We don’t want government-sponsored search committee. We want the Election Commission to be formed as per the opinion of the people, otherwise, people will not accept the new election commission,” BNP Secretary General Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

Speaking at a discussion at the city’s Dhaka Reporters Unity, he also said, “BNP would not accept any ploy in the name of search committee and any tamed Election Commission.”

Senior BNP leader Shamsuzzaman Khan Dudu told The Daily Star, “The BNP wants the government to hold dialogue on the process of forming the new Election Commission.”

“We are very well aware what this committee will do,” Dudu, also the BNP vice-chairman, said.

While forming the Kazi Rakib-led EC, then president Zillur Rahman consulted 23 political parties. Five parties had proposed forming a search committee, while four suggested enacting a law that could be followed for such appointments.

Zillur finally appointed an Appellate Division judge as the head of a four-member search committee to recommend names for the EC in 2012.

That committee, after screening, short-listed 10 people. Later, Zillur picked five and formed the EC on February 9, 2012.

Source: The Daily Star

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