Election Commission lost its neutrality by not allowing Jamaat-e-Islami in the ongoing dialogue
Jamaat places 16 proposals for holding free, fair, credible and participatory elections
On behalf of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, party’s Acting Ameer and former member of the Parliament Professor Mujibur Rahman has sent 16 proposals and recommendations to the election commission on 25th October, 2017 in order to hold a free, fair, credible and participatory election. A copy of the proposals was sent to media to make the proposals public immediately.
Along with proposals and recommendations, Professor Mujibur Rahman also sent a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner of Bangladesh. In the letter, Jamaat’s Acting Ameer stated that “A letter has been sent on behalf of Bangladesh’s third largest political party, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami earlier on 19th October. In that letter, we have requested you to allow Jamaat-e-Islami in the Election Commission sponsored dialogue which is going on to hold a free, fair, credible and participatory election.
You are acknowledged that Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami has taken part almost in all parliament election of the country. Jamaat is a registered party. The case, which had been lodged earlier on Jamaat’s registration issue, is still pending in the Appellate Division. So there is way to keep Jamaat-e-Islami out of the dialogue process. We think that Election Commission has lost its neutrality by depriving Jamaat-e-Islami from its due privileges as a registered party, even before the aforesaid registration case is set aside.
Jamaat backed candidates have bagged huge number of votes in the recently held city corporation polls, municipality election, Upazila Council and Union Council elections. A significant number of candidates also secured victories as well. Jamaat-e-Islami is representing almost 20 millions of people. But the countrymen are in worries, whether this election commission would be able to perform its duties properly as they are not allowing Jamaat-e-Islami to participate in the ongoing dialogue. We are expressing deep concern at such role of the election commission.
As a public representative party, Jamaat is placing 16 proposals and recommendations for your kind consideration to make the upcoming 11th national election free, fair, credible, acceptable and participatory.”
Jamaat’s proposals for holding a free, fair and credible election are given below:
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is one of the largest political parties of the country which has been registered by the election commission. Jamaat had representatives in almost all the parliamentary elections and it has representations in the current city corporations, municipalities, Upazila councils and the Union councils. The case with the registration of Jamaat-e-Islami is still pending in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Under the circumstances, as a people’s representative party, Jamaat holds democratic and fundamental rights to place its proposals and recommendations to make the upcoming 11th national election free, fair, credible, acceptable and participatory. According to the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, democracy is one of the core principles of ruling this country. The citizens become able to establish own rights through the process of democracy. Election process is the recognized way of democratic system. In the election, the countrymen elect their representatives by casting their votes. Public views are reflected through this process which ultimately alters the government as well. In the recent past, the election commissions have failed to hold a free, fair, credible and participatory election. The government also acted undemocratically and whimsically and these two factors created the ongoing political stalemate. To resolve the crisis, a free, fair, credible and participatory election is a must. In this backdrop, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is placing the following proposals and recommendations for the kind consideration of the election commission in order to make a fair, credible and participatory election.
1. Election-term government: To form a neutral/non-party caretaker government based on national consensus in order to hold a credible, free, fair and participatory election.
2. To strengthen Election Commission and to ensure its neutrality: a) To compel the ministries of Public Administration, Home, Local Government, Foreign, Education, Finance and Information to act as per the desire of the election commission during the election period. b) Election Commission should have the authority of all posting and transfer of the officials of the concerned ministries from the date of declaring election schedule till the new government takes the charge of the office. c) According to the election act of 972, magistracy power should be given to the officials of the Bangladesh Election Commission. Those officials deserve these authorities during the election. d) To take measures for the skill development of the staffs and officials of the election commission. Election Commission also should organize training workshop for the political activists of Upazila and district levels and also for the potential polling agents so that they can get idea about the electoral rules and regulations. To build up capacity of the training wing of the election commission. e) Election Commission will make all the decision during the period of election. No step should be taken on the personal decision of the Chief Election Commissioner or any other commissioner.
3. Regarding the Administration: a) To ensure a free, fair and credible election, all the DC’s and SPs who are working at the grassroots levels should be replaced by new ones immediate after the election schedule is declared. For the new posting, those officials should be avoided for a district who had worked earlier over there. Similarly, TNO/UNO and Police’s officer-in-charge of the local Upazila/Thana should be replaced by new ones. For the new ones, same principal should be followed which has been said for the DCs and SPs. After a posting, if any allegation is found against the new official, then punitive measures will be taken against him for violating the disciplines. b) To ensure the neutrality of the grassroots levels officials and staffs of the election commission as well as of the presiding officers. To identify those election officials who had showed loyalty to any party in earlier occasions. Even those officials should be kept out of the process who had violated the electoral rules earlier. c) To take immediate punishment measures against those election officials who have violated the electoral rules and to make those punitive measures public. d) All types of contractual posting and appointment should be cancelled which had been made in different government, semi-government and autonomous institutions and foreign embassies. e) The authority of giving permission of holding processions, rallies, electoral campaigns of the political parties and their candidates should be given to the concerned returning officer and assistant returning officer. f) Immediate after the election schedule is declared, a complain box should be given in all the offices of the returning officer, assistant returning officer, district election officer and also at the office of Thana/Upazila level election officer. Complain should be resolved within12 hours and the concerned complainer should be notified about the updates. g) On the election date, one election/polling agent for the candidate for each thana/upazila of the constituency.
4. To ensure equal right and facilities for the parties/candidates: a) According to the tradition of the parliamentary democracy and as per the political reality of Bangladesh, for the sake of a free, fair, credible and participatory election, parliament should be dissolved 90 days before the election and also to take measures to hold a participatory election under an election-term neutral government. b) To ensure equal facilities for all the parties and their candidates, all party offices of the political parties including Jamaat-e-Islami must be reopened. Political parties must be allowed to hold processions, rallies and other democratic activities. Political and false cases should be withdrawn which had been filed against the political activists and to release the political detainees. c) 6 months before the election, the managing committees of all the educational institutions should be cancelled. Those institutions to be brought under the local administration. Parliament members will no more be allowed to get involved with development activities. Local administration will look after the issues.
5. Deployment of Armed forces: Army should be deployed 7 days before the election.
6. To demarcate the constituencies: The constituencies should be demarcated. The election commission must hold hearing of the allegations in regards to the demarcation which had been filed by different political parties. Later, the commission will demarcate the area as per the concerned law and regulations.
7. To update the voter lists: Voter lists must be updated and new voter should be registered. The prisoners should be allowed as voter. The name of deceased from the voter list. The expatriates and political activists must be allowed to cast votes.
8. Submission of nomination papers and the deadline for campaign: a) Along with the existing system of submitting nomination forms before the returning officer and the assistant returning officers, new measures should be taken to submit the form to the election commission and also in on-line. Nomination paper form-1 should be amended. Candidate of the political party should be replaced by the candidate of the political party/alliance. b) Along with the nomination papers, the provision of submitting guarantee fee through cash should be cancelled. Instead of this system, this payment should be allowed through bank drafy/pay-order/treasury dealing. In case of withdrawing the nomination paper, the candidates should be asked to present physically or his representative may appear to withdraw if the concerned candidate remains behind the bar. c) In case submitting nomination papers, candidates should be given 10 days after the election schedule is declared and another 21 days should be given to conduct election campaign.
9. Vote centres and Vote casting: a) To publish the draft list of the poll centres. To receive objection about draft voter lists and to finalize the list by resolving those objections. Centre-based law and order committee should be formed. CC Camera should be set up in all the poll centres. CCTV footage should be monitored in the office of the returning/assistant returning officer in presence of the candidate’s agents. b) The voter list along with the photograph of the voters, which is usually available to the election officials, should be supplied to the candidates or his agents on the election day. It must be ensured so that the genuine voters can cast their votes. C) Waterproof image should be given in the ballot papers to ensure the security of the ballot papers, without foiling the electoral symbols.
10. Vote counting and publication of results: a) During the result distribution, the photocopy of the ballot paper and the list of ballot box numbers should be supplied to the electoral agents so that the agents can recheck it. Prior to casting votes, the empty ballot boxes should be kept visible to all candidates/ agents. If the boxes get filled, it should be kept in the same booth so that the presiding officer/ polling agent can watch it. b) During the counting, polling agents must be kept present. Till the end of counting no recess should be given. After the vote casting, since the opening of the boxes till the handed over of the presiding officer signed result sheet to the polling agents, no one should leave the polling centres. C) Returning officer should try to declare the result unofficially in presence of the candidates/agents after collecting the results from all the centres. The election commission should publish the gazette within 48 hours of unofficial announcement.
11. Electoral constituencies and deployment of the law enforcers: a) Immediate after the declaration of the election schedule, a committee should be formed comprising returning officer, DC, SP, representative of the BGB, RAB officials, Ansar-VDP officer, Village Defence force and Coast Guard in order to keep the issue of deploying the law enforcers transparent. This committee will evaluate the situation of the concerned area and will deploy the law enforcers fairly. b) After the declaration of the poll schedule, all the members of the law enforcement agencies will wear uniforms putting their name and ranks visible. No member of the law enforcers should be allowed to discharge duty in plain clothed dresses. C) Ansar or VDP member should not be allowed to discharge duty in his own ward or poll centre. Community police members should not be allowed to get involved with the election process. No one should be allowed to carry duty who wears the security guard dresses.
12. Appointment of local and foreign observer: a) Election observer bodies should be registered at least one year before the polls. Transparency in the observation process must be ensured. The election observers should be enlisted one month before the declaration of the election schedule. Local observer should not be permitted to observe polls in his/her area. Politically affiliated body should be allowed to observe the election process. b)The names of the local and international observers and the observing bodies to be revealed at least 7 days before the election. A separate help desks should be set up in the airport to guide the foreign observers. To facilitate their visa process, the representatives of the Home and foreign ministry would initiate a one stop service in the election commission secretariat.
13. Mass media and Mobile Network: a) All media should get equal facilities. To resume all the closed print, online and electronic media. Section 57 of the ICT act must be repealed. b) All the mobile and internet facilities should be kept open on the day of election. No restriction should be imposed on social media.
14. Using machines in Casting votes: EVM should not be used in the parliament election as frequent allegations of irregularities were found from the countries which have used this technology.
15. To resist black money and muscle power: To ensure a free, fair and credible election, effective measures must be take to resist the usage of black money and muscle power.
16. National Dialogue: Only dialogue is not enough to make a free, fair, credible and participatory election. So a national dialogue should be arranged with the representatives of those parties which had representation in the parliament since the independence of the country. We hope that the government and the election commission should consider the above mentioned 16 proposals of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and also other proposals, which have been placed by other parties and civil society representatives and will arrange a fair and credible election to rescue the nation from the ongoing political deadlock. In this backdrop, the nation expects sincere, efficient, skilled and fearless steps from a constitutional body like the election commission.
Allah Hafez, Bangladesh Zindabad Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Zindabad.
Professor Mujibur Rahman, Ex MP Acting Ameer Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami