Election observers expressed their worry at the Election Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed’s Tuesday comment urging election observers to stay at polling stations like statues during the upcoming December 30 national polls as they said it might affect the observers’ activities.
They also said that the election observers will have to be active and to take photos to collect evidence during the polls as they constitute a “assisting force” to the election commission. They also said that the existing law, however, does not allow an election observer to stay at polling stations like a statue.
On Tuesday, the EC secretary, addressing a briefing for local election observers at Nirbachon Bhaban in the capital, said that the election observers must stay at polling stations like statues, even if there are irregularities, and top of that, the observers will not be allowed to take photos at the polling booths.
The observers would only observe the situation and report to the authority which would later be sent to the EC, the EC secretary pointed out.
‘Election observers are an assisting force to the EC and would act like additional eyes and ears of the commission. If the additional eyes remain open, any conniving quarters who would try to influence the election results can be relented from committing any misdeed,’ Shusashoner Jonno Nagorik secretary Badiul Alam Majumder told the media.
The SHUJAN secretary said that the election observers will have to be active and have to collect evidence and that is why they would need to take photographs as opposed to being present at the polling centres like statues.
He demanded removal of barriers, if any, from the rules by re-evaluating it to ensure an ideal environment for election observers, who need to work freely. If otherwise, they will not be able to work properly, he feared.
‘Certainly, there are rules for the election observers to follow and it is expected that they would abide by the rules,’ Ain o Salish Kendra executive director Sheepa Hafiza told the media. However, she added, such comments like ‘staying at polling stations like statues’ is the expression of weakness on the part of the EC. ‘It is liable to create an environment of fear,’ she observed.
Jatiya Nirbachan Parjabekkhan Parishad founder Dr Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah said the existing rules does not allow an election observer to remain standing like a statue as there was no provision for being a stationary observer in the polling centres.
He said that the observers will have to observe the election by while in movement.
However, he also added that perhaps EC secretary was misquoted since ‘I feel he did not say it with any ulterior motive in mind.’
Fair Election Monitoring Alliance president Munira Khan said that they had always took photos in the polling stations, save for the polling booths inside it, while they checked the number of total votes, number of votes cast at a certain time, enquired whether there were polling agents of all the candidates and whether the ballot papers were being given properly.
She also added that the regulations EC mentioned were maintained in previous polls. ‘However, I am clueless about the context of his comment on polling observers standing like statues during polls,’ She said.
During Tuesday’s briefing, the EC secretary also threatened the election observers with cancellation of registration if they make any comment to the media and carry mobile phones during the polls.
A total of 118 organisations have been registered with the EC to monitor the upcoming national elections.