The Election Commission (EC) is going to reduce the number of organisations monitoring elections to 60 as most of them had previously failed to perform their duties properly, EC officials said.
However, most of the 120 poll observing organisations, registered with the EC, have welcomed the move, suggesting that quality and sincere observers be engaged for the elections.
The decision was made since the EC also felt that the organisations in question were only looking to profit from government and foreign funds.
Such allegations did not arise during the 5th general elections. But, there were accusations against many observer organisations in the 7th, 8th and 9th parliamentary elections.
Sources at the EC said the observers are always lobbying to get registered with the commission, and end up looking for funding opportunities with the observer cards issued.
Though the observers are supposed to monitor and prepare reports on how the polls are held, a significant number of observer organisations do not do so.
Many organisations had not even submitted reports of both national and local government elections to EC regularly in the past.
The organisations also engage in anomalies and nepotism while recruiting observers.
The organisations collected hundreds of observer cards from the EC by submitting about 100 to 150 CVs.
There are even some cases in which many people with criminal records get appointed as observers.
While some 75 local and foreign organisations had monitored the 9th parliamentary election, the number dropped to only 35 in the next general polls.
In the January 5 polls, only four observer organisations came from India and Bhutan. About 10,000 observers from 22 native observer organisations were allowed to monitor the national polls then.
The country's observers numbered 1,58,978 in the 9th parliamentary elections in 2008, of whom, 149,835 belonged to the election working group (EWG). Only 585 foreign observers had come here then.
In 2001, during the 8th parliamentary election, about 225 observers from national and international organisations had worked here, while the figure stood at 265 in the 1996 national election.
In the last dialogue between the EC and journalists, the latter proposed to be observers in the next general election. But EC's former joint secretary Rafiqul Islam opposed the matter, saying there was no policy allowing journalists to become observers.
Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar, during the meeting, suggested that the number of 120 registered organisations be halved.
Election Commissioner Kabita Khanam also questioned the merit of the 120 organisations, demanding assessment and monitoring of the work of the organisations.
Professor Dr Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, chair at the National Election Observation Council (JANIPOP), also welcomed this initiative.
There is no point of continuing appointment of organisations that do not work despite being registered with the EC, he said.
“There is no benefit in keeping them,” he added.
Many organisations had registered with the EC in order to access various benefits. But they did not work in the field properly, he said, emphasising on the quality of observation.
There is no point in engaging thousands of observers, he further said.
Sharmeen Murshid, CEO of the NGO Brotee, said observation is necessary o ensure there is no ‘third’ power among the competitors in the elections.
She also underscored the need of having quality observers who have to be neutral as well.
Or else, the poll monitoring will become meaningless, she said.
The Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik Sujon Secretary Badiul Alam Mojumdar prioritised on deploying more foreign observers.
“There is a positive influence of observers during general elections. In this case, foreign observers need to be employed who will draw international attention to the polls, creating pressure on the EC to hold a free and fair general election,” he suggested.
If so, the poll results will also be well accepted in the international arena, he opined.
BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said having neutral observers during the next general polls is a must since the ruling party is in an aggressive mood to retain power at any cost.
He suggested that observers be deployed at risky polling areas to help ensure a congenial atmosphere for voting.
In August, former European Union ambassador Pierre Mayaudon met Prime Minister Shekh Hasina and proposed sending observers in the next general election. The premier also welcomed European Union's proposal.
Former Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Shakhawat Hussain said both national and international observers are important for the present situation of Bangladesh.
“The observers are most essential since political parties on most occasions reject the election results,” he said.
He urged the EC to ensure the accountability of observers and observer organisations to avoid any kind of criticism or blame.
Awami League leader Mahbubul Alam Hanif also raised the issue of quality observation.
“If the EC logically thinks it perfect to cut the number of observer organisations to 60, we would appreciate that,” he said.
He also said that it needs to be monitored so that nobody can establish influence in the name of monitoring polls.