Wooing the BNP

Courier Briefing
Thursday, October 19th, 2017

BNP’s meeting with EC


The BNP has given a 20-point proposal to the Election Commission for the 11th parliamentary election, with the demand for an independent and facilitative polls-time government as the main prerequisite.


The party, which also leads the 20-party alliance, said they would “soon provide the outline for that polls-time government”, even though it has been carrying out a movement demanding an interim administration for a long time.


BNP has also proposed deployment of army during election, giving magisterial power to the defence services and the commission’s first-class gazetted officials, and dissolving the current parliament 90 days before the ballot in order to create a level playing field for all parties.


The Election Commission held a nearly three-hour-long dialogue at its office in Dhaka’s Agargaon with BNP Sunday morning as part of its roadmap to the next national election, likely to be held between late 2018 and early 2019.


Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda, four other commissioners and other high officials were present at the meeting while the 16-member BNP delegation was led by Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir=. Briefing the media afterwards, Mirza Fakhrul said: “Our proposals include demands for a supportive government, army deployment, withdrawal of false cases against BNP leaders including Chairperson Khaleda Zia, release of arrested leaders, and bringing an end to killings and forced disappearances.”


Their proposal alleged that the ruling party, Awami League, was the only party at the moment that is campaigning for the election using its power. He said they urged the commission to take steps to ensure the rights of all the political parties to hold meetings and rallies along with other political activities.


The BNP leader said they also want the commission to play a positive role in having the government organise talks with all parties in order to ensure an unbiased and credible election.


Mirza Fakhrul said BNP was now a bit hopeful about the Election Commission playing a positive role after the dialogue. heir other proposals and demands include freeing all levels of the administration from the ruling party’s grasp, leaving officials from police and local administrations with political ties out from election duties, no use of electronic voting machines, reinstating the boundaries of the electoral constituencies to that of before 2008, and amending the Representation of the People Order.


Also, BNP has proposed amending the Conduct of Election rules, Code Of conduct for Political Parties and Candidates and the Registration of Political Parties Rules, and training the polling agents of all political parties on election laws and rules.


They also made some suggestions regarding voter awareness programme, the media, mobile telephone network during polls, and forwarded a number of recommendations to the Election Commission to ensure a proper guideline for local and international election observers.


Regarding the deployment of security forces during the polls, BNP proposed forming a committee in every district and every metropolitan area with representatives from all law enforcement agencies, local administrations and election officials to coordinate and ensure transparency.


The party also called for installing adequate CCTV cameras in every voting centre to ensure proper monitoring of the situation during ballot.


The BNP delegation included Standing Committee Members Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, Moudud Ahmed, Jamiruddin Sircar, Tariqul Islam, Mahbubur Rahman, Rafiqul Islam Mia, Mirza Abbas, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Moyeen Khan, Nazrul Islam Khan and Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury.


BNP Advisory Council members ASM Abdul Halim, Ismail Kabiullah, Abdur Rashid Sarkar and Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi were also part of it. The commission on August 24 started holding dialogues with 40 registered political parties to receive their opinions over its preparation for the next election. Talks with 32 parties have been completed so far, with the AL scheduled for October 18. But the government of course is expected to play ball, and the BNP really represents the big prize as far as the EC is concerned, for its own failure or success to be judged. That may explain the CEC’s overtures to Zia. Although no guarantee yet of success.


To dissolve or not to dissolve


Bangladesh Muslim League (BML) and Khelafat Majlish proposed that the Election Commission (EC) take steps for installing an election-time non-partisan government and deploying army with the magistracy power to hold the next general election in a free, fair and credible manner.


“We’ve recommended installing an election-time non-partisan impartial caretaker or supportive government to hold the next polls neutrally with the participation of all parties,” BML secretary general Advocate Sheikh Julfikar Bulbul Chowdhury told reporters after the talks.


They also suggested deployment of army with the magistracy power from one month before the election to 15 days after the polls, he said, adding that their party placed an 11-point proposal before the Commission during the one-and-half-hour dialogue.


The other proposals include creating election-friendly atmosphere , curbing use of black money and muscle power, ensuring security to polling stations and attendance of polling agents by installing stations in neutral places, announcing polls result in each station publicly, creating environment for every registered political party to join the election, ensuring neutral role of the administration and law enforcement agencies, and withdrawal of political cases at least three months before the election day.


Dr Kader said his party suggested keeping the public administration and home ministries under the Election Commission during the polls.


He said they suggested the Commission take steps for withdrawal of all ‘false’ cases filed against opposition leaders and activists and the release of all political detainees before announcement of the election schedule.


Among other proposals placed by Khelafat Majlish are dissolution of Parliament, refraining from using electronic voting machines in election, appointment of returning officers from EC’s own staff, keeping election free from influence of black money and muscle power, restoration of pre-2008 delimitation of constituencies, bringing all polling stations under CCTV coverage, if possible, ensuring voting rights of Bangladeshi expatriates and extension of the deadline for political parties to reach target of ensuring 33 percent women in their all-level committees.


A Home affair


Bangladesh Sangskritik Muktijote (Muktijote) suggested bringing the Public Administration and Home Ministries under the Election Commission during parliamentary elections.


“We’ve proposed bringing the Public Administration Ministry and the Home Ministry under the control of the Commission during the national election,” Muktijote’s executive chief Muhammad Aminur Rahman told reporters after taking part in a dialogue with the EC.


They also recommended forming a Jatiya Parishad (national council) for reforming electoral laws and appointing the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners, he said. The President will be the head of the council with an absolute authority while the CEC its ex-officio convener, Aminur added.


EC acting secretary Helaluddin Ahmed at a press briefing said the Election Commission appreciated the proposal placed by Muktijote, saying the formation of the Jatiya Parishad might be considered. With the meeting with Muktijote, the EC started its talks with 40 registered political parties to take their opinions over the preparations for the national election likely to be held in late December 2018.


Muktijote did not place any proposal over the army deployment during the national election. “It’s the EC which will decide whether army is needed or not,” Aminur said.

During the talks with registered political parties, the Commission seeks opinions over different issues, including electoral law reforms and delimitation of constituencies, updating voter list, fixation of polling stations and awarding registration to new political parties. Earlier, the Commission held talks with civil society members on July 31, media representatives on August 16-17. It will also sit with election observers, women leaders and polls experts.


Smaller than small fry


Two political parties placed their respective proposals during their dialogues with the Commission, held with Chief Election Commissioner KN Nurul Huda in the chair at Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital.


The party also suggested conducting the 11th general election under the existing Election Commission in a free, fair and neutral manner in due time following the Constitutional obligation; creating election-friendly atmosphere by ensuring equal facilities for all parties; and demarcating constituencies considering voter size and administrative unit.


The alternative force


Bikalpadhara Bangladesh on Tuesday proposed the Election Commission (EC) not to re-demarcate the parliamentary constituencies ahead of the next general election saying that it will invite controversy. The party, however, proposed the deployment of army for 45 days during the election from 30 days before the polls as well as restoration ‘No Vote’ provision.


“Some parliamentary constituencies are re-demarcated by the Election Commission ahead of every national election, which created controversy and kept adverse impacts in public mind. So, now there is no need for delimitation of constituency (before next election),” said one of their written proposals.


Another proposal said, “The army will have to be kept deployed one month before the election to maintain peace and order. The army members will be engaged to provide security to voters and candidates on the balloting day. And the army will have to be kept in the field to maintain peace and order till 15 days after the voting day.”


The Election Commission on August 24 last started dialogues with 40 registered political parties to receive their opinions over the EC’s preparation for the 11th national election likely to be held in December 2018. Bikalpadhara Secretary General Maj (Retd) Abdul Mannan was also among the delegation members.


No vote, the option


Islamic Front Bangladesh has proposed for restoration ‘No Vote’ provision and use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), while Bangladesh Kalyan Party for the deployment of army during the next parliamentary elections.


The two political parties placed their respective proposals joining separate dialogues with the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday. The two meetings were held in the city’s Nirbachan Bhaban with Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda in the chair.


A 12-member Islamic Front delegation, led by its secretary general Syed Bahadur Shah participated in the meeting at 3pm and placed their 12-point proposal.


We’ve placed a 12-point proposal, including restoration of ‘No Vote’ provision, use of EVMs, reducing ceiling of election expenditures, bearing polls expenditures by the EC,” Bahadur Shah told reporters after the meeting.


Among other proposals, dissolution of parliament immediate after the announcement of polls schedule and holding the national election in three phases –arrangement of voting in 100 constituencies in each phase– for the sake of ensuring foolproof security for all.


Earlier, a 10-member Kalyan Party team, led by its chairman Syed Muhammad Ibrahim joined the EC’s talks at 11am and placed their eight-point proposal. Kalyan Party, also a component of the BNP-led 20-Party Alliance, proposed the EC to deploy the army 15 days before the ballot.


“We’ve placed an eight-point proposal at the meeting. We’ve said that now the law enforcement agencies anyhow became politicised. So, people can’t trust that election will be fair with them (law enforcement agencies),” Ibrahim told reporters after the talks.

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