Voter registration will start with two months
Expatriates can register as voters online as well as offline from the last week of August. Expatriates living in Singpore will get this opportunity first.
Election officials who visited Singapore earlier in March confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune.
During the time, a four-member team, led by Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed, went to Singapore the first week of March to run a feasibility study. They met with the officials of Bangladesh High Commission in Singapore, the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, immigration and checkpoint authorities – and people from Bangladeshi community there.
On Tuesday, Election Commission approved the voter registration portal of expatriates via online in the meeting which will officially start soon. Expatriates can register their names by clicking the option “probasi”/“expatriate” on the commission’s website.
“We will start voter registration process by the last week of August or the first week of September. Thereon, expatriates can be register as voters online. During the time, a date would be allotted for taking photos for their NID. Expatriates can also register offline. In this regard, they have to visit the Bangladeshi High Commission in Singapore to fill up the form.” said Abdul Baten, Election Commission joint secretary and director of operations at the National Identity Registration Wing (NID Wing).
Meanwhile the Election Commission did not get the permission yet to make expatriates of Singapore as voters. Election officials who visited Singapore said that the Election Commission will need to review Singapore law before proceeding.
Earlier Bangladesh High Commission officials warned the Election Commission delegation that the Bangladesh authorities should officially take the Singapore government’s permission before launching the project there, according to the document.
Unless they are aware of it, the Singaporean authorities are likely to deem sudden gatherings of Bangladeshi citizens in a place – in this case, at the High Commission to register as voters – suspicious or illegal.
Abdul Baten said when the Election Commission held a meeting with High Commission and the Foreign Ministry of Singapore, they asked us to write a letter seeking permission.
“We [Election Commission] wrote a letter to the High Commission of Singapore regarding the issue but we did not get the permission yet. Our team will contact them soon to know whether permission will be needed or not and whether they are giving the permission, Abdul Baten added.
Singaporean authorities are sensitive about any kind of large gatherings, since the country is run by a one-party government, Singaporean High Commission officials told the Election Commission delegation.
The delegates said they were strictly monitored by the local authorities during their visit.
There is no specific data on how many Bangladeshi citizens live in Singapore, but the population is estimated to be close to 100,000.
The Singaporean authorities have data on every country’s expatriates living there, but they do not share the information with any diplomatic mission, officials of the Bangladesh High Commission in Singapore said.
The Election Commission is planning to set up permanent offices in 100 countries to enroll expatriate voters, including in Singapore, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, UK, US, Italy, Australia, and Canada.
The initiative of enrolling expatriates on the voters list was first taken during the tenure of former chief of election commission (CEC) Shamsul Huda but no significant progress was made then. Later, the current Election Commission, led by CEC KM Nurul Huda, resumed the project.
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