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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Violation of Polls Code by AL Men EC seeks PM's intervention

With the Awami League men continuing to breach the polls code, an election commissioner yesterday sought the prime minister's intervention to check this.
"We want more responsible behaviours from those who are in the government. We want their cooperation ... We would like to request the head of the government to look into the matter," Election Commissioner Shah Nawaz told reporters at the EC Secretariat ahead of the December 30 municipality polls.
Such incidents of violation of the electoral code of conduct will tarnish the government's image and put the Election Commission in an embarrassing situation, he viewed.
With the voting day approaching nearer, many Awami League leaders, including ministers and lawmakers, are allegedly violating the polls code and joining electoral activities.
Besides, there have been allegations that supporters of the AL-nominated candidates brought out motorcade and processions and obstructed campaigns of the rival candidates.
The election commissioner said, "We urge them to kindly cooperate with us."
"Such activities will eventually adversely affect the government's image ... So, we would like to request you (AL men) not to create a situation that may embarrass both you and us," he added.
Shah Nawaz also warned the returning officers of actions of actions against them if the polls-code violators are spared.
"We think that returning officers are not taking adequate actions in comparison to the number of alleged violations."
The EC has, meanwhile, found false the allegation that a BNP-backed mayor candidate in Noakhali's Chatkhil municipality was forced by the ruling party men to withdraw his nomination paper.
Following this, the commission formed an inquiry committee which submitted its report yesterday, saying the allegation was not true, according to EC sources.
BNP Joint Secretary General Mahbub Uddin Khokon filed the complaint with the EC last week.
He wrote that supporters of the AL-backed candidate on December 13 forced the BNP's mayor contender to sign the withdrawal form at gunpoint and submitted it on their own.
Lawmakers Safiqul Islam Shimul (Natore-2) and MA Malek (Dhaka-20) accompanied AL-nominated mayor candidates while the latter were submitting nomination papers in their respective municipalities on December 3.
Another ruling party MP, Shawkat Hasnur Rahman (Barguna-2), took a mayor contender to Barguna from Dhaka in his car the same day.
The EC on December 6 issued show cause notices to the three and the lawmakers later apologised for their actions.
Health Minister Mohammad Nasim and AL-endorsed mayoral aspirant in Sirajganj municipality on December 16 delivered speeches at a Victory Day rally that eventually became a campaign procession, according to media reports.
Besides, MPs Atiur Rahman (Sherpur-1), Enamul Haque (Rajshahi-4) and Anwarul Abedin Khan (Mymensingh-9) sought vote for 'boat' symbols at Victory Day programmes in their respective areas that day.
In Chatmohar municipality of Pabna, AL lawmaker Mokbul Hossain (Pabna-3) at a meeting on December 14 campaigned for the party-backed mayor candidate.
In Barguna municipality, AL-blessed mayor hopeful Kamrul Ahsan brought out a procession with several hundred party men on December 15 night, halting vehicular movement.
And yesterday, AL-sponsored mayor contender Anisur Rahman in Sreepur municipality of Gazipur brought out a procession, halting public and vehicular movement. Earlier on Thursday, he brought out a procession of around 50 motorcycles, according to media reports.
The code of conduct bars MPs from joining any sort of election activities and candidates from campaigning by obstructing public movement.
In the last one and a half weeks, the EC sent directives to the ROs of around 40 municipalities to investigate the allegations of electoral code breach.
And at a meeting on Saturday, the commission expressed dissatisfaction at the ROs' role and ordered them to take actions against the perpetrators.
However, an election expert thinks that the EC has more roles to play to check such incidents.
"It will be difficult to control the situation if the commission depends solely on the returning officers. Rather, it should proactively exert its legal power to check code violations," former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hussain told The Daily Star.

The Independent, 30 December 2015
All eyes on polls today
Voters look forward to historic election under party symbols
The Election Commission (EC) has completed all necessary preparations to hold elections in 234 municipalities across the country today, amid apprehensions of violence, with a third of the polling centres being identified as risky.
This is the first time that the local body elections will be held with political symbols, which has generated an immense amount of interest among the voters. Twenty political parties, including the ruling Awami League (AL) and its main rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have nominated their candidates in the polls.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad urged the voters to cast votes in the poling centres without any fear as a peaceful atmosphere will prevail.
He also directed the law enforcers to carry out the state responsibilities without any partiality during election, and warned action, otherwise.
The CEC at a press conference at the EC secretariat yesterday also sought cooperation of the political parties, candidates and mass media to assist to conduct a fair election.
Although apparently it is only the mayoral elections to the municipalities, this will boil down to a fight between the AL and the BNP, and will serve as the litmus test of their popularity in the field.
Twenty political parties have nominated 659 mayoral candidates. Apart from this, 285 Independent candidates are also in the fray for the mayoral posts. Seven mayoral candidates of the ruling AL have already been elected unopposed.
Among the political parties, the AL has nominated 233 mayoral candidates, BNP 223, Jatiya Party 74, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal 21, National People’s Party 17, Islami Andolon Bangladesh 57, Jatiya Party (M) six, Communist Party of Bangladesh four, Bangladesh Islami Front three, Bangladesh Workers Party eight and Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish four.
Again, the Liberal Democratic Party, Bikalpadhara Bangladesh, Bangladesher Biplobi Workers Party, Islami Oikya Jote, Bangladesh National Awami Party, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, Progressive Democratic Party and Bangladesh Tarikat Federation have nominated a single mayoral candidate each.
Nearly 71 lakh voters are ready to cast their votes in 3,555 centres to choose their mayors and councillors. There are 35,52,284 male and 35,46,860 female voters in the polls.
Voting will begin at 8am and continue till 4pm without any break.
A total of 12,171 candidates, including 945 mayoral candidates, 2,480 councillors (reserved) and 8,746 councillors (general), is in the fray. On the other hand, a total of 66,768 policing officers, including 2,555 presiding officers, 21,071 assistant presiding officers and 42,142 poling officers, will administer the election.
The EC said it has taken all-out measures to maintain law and order so as to ensure a peaceful environment for the voters, assuring them that they can go to the centres to cast their ballots without any intimidation.
The commission has deployed a total of 1,17,304 members of law enforcement agencies, including the police, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Coast Guard and Ansar.
The EC has deployed 45,000 police personnel, while 9,415 BGB, 8,424 RAB, 225 Coast Guard and 54,240 Ansar personnel will work as mobile and strike forces. The 'general' centres will have 19 law enforcement personnel each, while the 'important' centres will have 20 each.
The BGB has been deployed in 229 municipalities, and the Coast Guard will maintain law and order in six municipalities in the coastal areas. The BGB will remain in the field till December 31 to maintain law and order.

Apart from the law enforcement officials, there will also be executive and judicial magistrates in all the municipalities.
The commission has directed the police to take immediate measures under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against any suspicious person who fails to disclose his or her identity.
The EC has also banned the movement of vehicles, including buses, trucks, tempos, private cars, pick-up vans, microbuses, auto-rickshaws and baby taxis in the election areas from yesterday midnight to 12pm today. However, vehicles of observers and journalists can be used, with the permission of the returning officers.
Meanwhile, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday told mediapersons after a meeting at his office that the law enforcement officials will act in the field in accordance with the directives of the Election Commission.
“There is nothing to be worried about. The law enforcers will function as per the EC’s directives,” he added.
The commission has given its assurance that it would ensure a peaceful atmosphere on the day of polling.
However, violence connected to the elections occurred in some areas, including Jessore, though there was no campaign yesterday.
A polling agent of BNP-backed councillor candidate Mohiuddin of Ward 4 was allegedly injured in an attack carried out by his opponent, Siddiqur Rahman, a candidate of the AL, at a kitchen market adjacent to Shahadat Pilot School polling station.
Meanwhile, the EC withdrew an officer-in-charge of Shahjadpur police station in Sirajganj district, Rezaul Haque, yesterday, for allegedly favouring a mayoral candidate in the municipality polls. Also, lawmaker Gazi MM Amjad Hossain Milon of Sirajganj-3 constituency received a warning for violating the electoral code of conduct.
On the other hand, delegations of both the AL and the BNP met the chief election commissioner at the EC secretariat to express their apprehensions about the elections.
AL joint general secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif again accused the EC of being harsh with candidates of the ruling party and soft towards BNP candidates with regard to the polls. “Our candidates are being harassed at various places in the country. But the EC is not taking any action against the miscreants as the candidates are of the ruling party. It seems that the commission is kind towards the BNP and has become cruel towards the AL,” he said.
He was speaking to mediapersons after a meeting with the chief election commissioner at the EC secretariat in the capital yesterday at noon.
At a press conference at party president and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Dhanmondi political office, Hanif also called upon the party’s leaders and activists to assist the members of law enforcement agencies deployed to maintain the law and order situation during the voting.
Meanwhile, talking to reporters at the Secretariat, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader yesterday said, “If we are defeated in some municipalities, we will not lose our power, because it is just the local government elections. So, we will not do anything for which the government might feel embarrassed.”
The ruling AL will assist the Election Commission in holding a free, fair and credible election, he added.
The BNP’s standing committee member, Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan, yesterday told reporters at the EC secretariat that the party would welcome the poll results if the voters can cast their votes unhindered and the result sheets are not altered.
Meanwhile, BNP leaders yesterday alleged that mass arrests were taking place silently, along with attacks on party activists, in different areas ahead of the municipal elections across the country.
They also accused police of harassing the polling agents of BNP mayoral candidates, adding that ruling party cadres are threatening them by visiting their homes and telling them not to appear at the polling centres.
Addressing a press briefing, BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi claimed that silent drives for carrying out mass arrests and threats to party activists are going on in most of the municipalities—Jamalpur, Joypurhat, Jhalkhathi, Jenaidah, Munsiganj, Khagrachari, Bagerhat, Chuadanga, Patuakhali, Natore, Satkania, Sitakunda, Kotiadi, Naogaon, Narail, Ramgati, Pathoghata, Habiganj, Kulaura and Bhagha.
Meanwhile, addressing a rally on the Supreme Court premises, adviser to BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, warned that the consequences would be severe if the government tries to manipulate the results of the polls.

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