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Shujan: Free, fair election impossible under the incumbent government

  • Published at 10:08 am September 16th, 2018
One of the speakers addresses a roundtable, titled "RPO Amendment and Fair Election,"organized by Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Sunday, September 16, 2018 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The organization claims Bangladesh’s only fair election was held by a caretaker government

Members of the civil society think a free and fair election will not be possible under the incumbent Awami League-led government.

Their opinion came at a roundtable, titled “RPO Amendment and Fair Election,” organized by Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan), at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Sunday.

Shujan President M Hafiz Uddin Khan said: “No free and fair election has been held under any political party’s government. 

“In our history, fair election was held only by a caretaker government.”

He said it was possible for the current government to hold a fair election if it wanted, but it does not have any intention to do so.

Hafiz, who was also an adviser for the caretaker government, said the election must be held by a neutral government.

His remarks were echoed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan.

She said that a government led by a political party does not consider citizens’ voting rights. “We live in a society where there is no freedom of speech.”

Saying the Election Commission was just “for show,” Advocate Jotirmoy Barua also added: “A fair election depends on the balance of power.”

Gonosonhoti Andolon Chief Coordinator Zonayed Saki said: “The present law on political party registration has become the main weapon of autocratic power.”

Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said: “There are many stakeholders for holding a fair election and the Election Commission is the most important one. Then there are law enforcement agencies and the administration.

“These legal frameworks are being used as a weapon against others, turning them into a barrier to hold fair polls.”

“The Election Commission never listens to us, but I hope that our parliament will and bring necessary changes for interest of citizens and fair elections,” Badiul added.

Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumdar said: “If the Election Commission’s work is found to be questionable then its officials will not be able to work effectively.”

“The code of conduct was violated in the city corporation polls. Many of us took these elections as a trial run before the National Election,” he added.

Ali further said: “An elected mayor of a city corporation was seen campaigning before another city corporation’s election. And even after knowing this, the commission took no action against him.

“They at least could have called the local administration officials and asked them to take steps.”

Gono Forum Executive President Advocate Subrata Chawdhury said: “Currently, a non-elected government is ruling the country, so free and fair election will not be possible under it, even after amending the RPO [Representation of the People Order].”

At the roundtable, Shujan also made a number of demands, some of which were – reintroduction of “no vote” provision, adding provisions for submitting nomination paper online, adding provisions of affidavit and income tax return along with nomination papers for the reserved women seats, and formulation of code of conduct for social media.

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