Truth speaks itself; How a fractured EC can keep people’s trust and give a fair election to the nation

Truth speaks itself

How a fractured EC can keep people’s trust and give a fair election to the nation

Faruque Ahmed

Two campaigning scenarios are distinctly visible in city streets and all over the country as the national election is drawing closer. Ruling party Awami League and its allies are campaigning in jubilant celebration in city streets from morning to midnight.

Their posters and portraits of candidates are overcrowding city intersections, lanes and by-lanes with equal contrast to the opposition campaign that is almost absent all over. In the city election campaign by opposition BNP/OIkyafront candidates is under constant watch.

Police and party men are denying them the chance to run unhindered campaign to reach the voters.  Ruling party volunteers beat the opposition leaders and workers while police pick up them in their vehicles at places so that they can’t attract big crowd that may highlight the opposition mass support to voters.

It is surprising why the Chief Election Commissioner KM Nunurul Huda is making almost daily statements to claim that level playing field is at work in the country and all parties are campaigning at their will without hindrance.Amidst such clam by the CEC Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder last week said in he does not see or believe a minimum of the level playing field at work. Such claim is all together meaningless. The next day the CEC fired back saying Talukder is lying; he didn’t speak the truth.  The Commissioner told reporters that they can question their conscience to get an answer as the situation unfolds everywhere. He hit back saying the CEC’s remark is undesirable and it has undermined his independent entity as a commissioner. He said the EC must do more to create the level playing field to command people’s trust.

Question rises as to why the CEC is claiming the presence of a fair level playing field when it is absent in the ground is noticeable all around. Many believe he should try to exercise the independent powers of the commission to arrange a free and fair election instead of sheltering a government friendly role to give it an easy pass in the election.
The situation deteriorated in the past week all over the country. Even Dr Kamal Hossain and other senior BNP/OIkyafront leaders came under attack by ruling party goons at martyred intellectual mausoleum at Mirpur early in the morning of December 14 as they went to pay tribute.  Some of were hurt and their vehicles damaged. The massage was that despite the fact that they were leaders of the independence movementand liberation war they can’t go unchallenged when it comes about their presence in anti-government platform. Dr Kamal said the OIkyafront will not be afraid and abandon election despite manifold provocations.

The number of election violence is only rising on daily basis that prompted Dr Kamal Hussain to say he fears whether or not the election would take place at the end. In his view the government is creating the situation to force BNP/OIkyaafront combine to abandon election.  Similar apprehension has been sounded by BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Wednesday while speaking about several court actions dismissing many BNP candidates from election race at the middle of the election process. There is no scope for the party at this stage to replace party nominees in their respective seats.

Eight such seats fell vacant without BNP nominees. The party will fill up seven vacuum seats with other independents or OIkyafront candidates but they can’t use the popular party election symbol of sheaf of paddy to deny them a good election.

The fear about a free and fair election further exacerbated when Awami League general secretary and communication minister Obaidul Qader said last week that any defeat for his party will see bloodbath throughout the country. His party did not allow BNP to succeed in anti-government movement in the past and will not allow it to defeat the government in the polls.  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also publicly said Awami League should stay in power for next five years to continue its massive development work and nobody will be able to use lection to discontinue it from power. It seems to be a premediated election in which voters may not be able to use their franchise.

It appears that the government used threats to BNP and such other opposition parties of losing their party registration if they keep out of election. But now that they are participating, the government is using all its power to push them to the brink.

Media report said over the seven days till last Tuesday election related clashes in 45 districts caused injuries to at least 633 persons. During this period over 716 persons were arrested and the number of such incidents is only on rise on daily basis.

BNP/OIkyafront leaders and workers in 16 Chittagong constituencies said they are totally insecure to take to the streets for election campaigning. Police are arresting leaders and workers from their homes. None can reportedly stay at home fearing arrest.

They complained of blasting cocktails, use of sharp weapons at many places and firing at opposition leaders and workers homes. A young BNP man died last week attempting to escape police arrest and this is a common scenario almost all over the country.

Meanwhile, attack on Awami League candidate’s procession at Kustia-1 where Information minister Hasanul Haque Inu is contesting has seriously aggravated the election environment. Miscreants opened fire on Awami League office at Mirpur and cocktail blasts occurred at party’s electioneering office at Magura. Awami League blamed opposition for the attacks but BNP said in most such cases ruling party men are spreading the terror to set BNP men in false cases.  Police fire on BNP’s candidate Barrister Mahbub Uddin Khokon, who is also a leader of Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar association fatally injuring him in his constituency at Noakhali also showed the bloody face of the electioneering campaign.

Dr Kamal Hussain and other OIkyafront leaders last week demanded quick intervention of the Election commission to stop such bloody clashes and release of 14 opposition candidates from jail to allow them to run their electioneering campaign. Only last week the court sent a BNP candidate for Kustia-4 to jail when he went for bail in a previous case.

Another BNP candidate from Magura was arrested last week without valid reason. OIkyafront leaders told the EC that over the past eight days 2241 party leaders and workers were implicated in ghost cases till last Monday. It is destroying. They demanded police accesses must end.  The High Court dismissed BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia’s ’s appeal to contest in election keeping her appeal against conviction pending. Her lawyers said from former president HM Ershad till today many Awami League leaders also contested election with their appeal against conviction pending. Many believe she is victim of discrimination in the highly charged political situation.  The Court on Monday also issued a rule on the Election Commission to clear the matter of 25 Jamaat leaders contesting the election on BNP’s symbol Sheaf of paddy. Any decision to declare their candidacy illegal may further worsen the situation.

Previous Supreme Court order calls for not intervening in the election process once it starts rolling. It said any dispute over candidacy at the middle of the process must be left to be decided by election tribunal after election. The recent practice of dropping candidates once they were declared eligible appears highly discriminatory. In the opinion of many such controversial practice and the case for a free and air election can’t go together.

Holiday 21 December 2018