As the UP elections date is nearing, the countrywide Union Parishad (UP) electioneering is taking a violent turn leading to serious questioning of the neutrality and capability of the Election Commission to hold free, fair and credible elections. Since the beginning of the electioneering of the first phase of UP polls, at least four people were killed and over 100 others injured in violent incidents across the country. Besides, party offices, election centers and even candidates' houses and personal establishments were set ablaze and ransacked by the opponents in various districts including Narayanganj, Laxmipur, Comilla, Bogra, Pirojpur, Bagerhat, Bhola, Jhalakathi and Pubna.
Despite having tough laws against such
misdeeds and violations of electoral codes of conduct, the EC still now
has remained a 'silent spectator.' It casts doubts among the general
public over the neutrality of the Commission which has already become
controversial for various admitted facts.
Although the EC has
sounded serious warning against any poll violence or irregularity, those
have still remained 'hollow sounding threats' as no noteworthy steps
were noticed on behalf of the EC to stop various irregularities in the
polls that for the first time in the country's history is going to be
held on party basis with party election symbols.
As per polls
schedule candidates have filed nominations against 752 UPs in the first
phase and 710 UPs in the second phase. Over 4,275 UPs will go to polls
in six phases across the country beginning from March 22.
At the very
outset of the electioneering, the EC was denounced when in the first
phase at least 62 contestants came out victorious unopposed which is
unprecedented in the history of the country's UP elections. In the
second phase polls, another 13 persons were also declared elected
unopposed that further defamed the EC. Besides, it was alleged that in
the first phase BNP could not file nominations in 119 UPs while its
number came down to 62 in the second phase. Allegations have been
pouring into the concerned offices of the returning officers on various
grounds. Majority of the allegations have come from the BNP ticket
holders as well as Awami League rebels. However, it was told by Awami
League side that BNP could not file nominations in those posts as they
had no suitable candidates. Besides, AL alleged that because of faulty
and wrong politics of BNP many potential candidates abandoned the party
long before. AL rebel candidates have been raising objections against
the biased role of the EC officials and law enforcing agencies.
the previous occasions, some candidates were elected unopposed and there
was no harm in it. It may happen in case of some 'most popular'
candidates or under certain 'socio-political environment.' But unopposed
elections of such a large number of candidates at the lowest level of
local government administration surely generated doubts, mistrust and
suspicion among the common people and the EC has no scope to avoid its
responsibility in such cases.
Rival political parties and individual
candidates have brought allegations that their candidates were not
allowed to submit nomination papers in the wake of use of force or due
to many other fraudulent means. Even, allegations were there that
nomination papers could not be filed by many candidates due to death
threats by their rivals. Even today, there are very little instances
where the EC had either taken any action or even made any effective
investigation to probe those allegations. Even after violent clashes
leading to death or critical injuries to many people, there were no
indications or instances of taking any action against the violators of
the election codes of conduct.
We may recall here that the EC had
already attained significant amount of slander and defame for its
questionable role in conducting the last general elections as well as
City Corporations and Pourashava polls. In those elections doubtful
number of candidates were elected unopposed that tarnished the image and
credibility of the EC. Poll observers believe that candidates belonging
to certain quarters have become desperate because of indifferent
attitudes of the EC.
It should be borne in everyone's mind that the
EC shall have to go a long way, at least up to 2019 national elections.
It if fails to establish its unquestionable credibility, transparency
and integrity, the nation may face disastrous consequences as we have
burning experiences of the near past. It is still fresh in our memory
that the EC headed by Justice MA Aziz could not sustain in the face of
extreme displeasure of the people. So, for the sake of national
interest, for the sake of sound growth of democracy and for the sake of
justice and fair play as well as for establishing good governance in the
country, the Election Commission must be above all criticism,
controversy and debate - it is very much irrelevant which party bags how
many seats in the UP polls. Rather, the EC can best serve the nation,
the government and even the ruling party by establishing its image as a
transparent, accountable and efficient body in the country.