Around 32 people, including Dhaka University Professor Geeti Ara Nasrin, Barrister Sara Hossain, and photographer Shahidul Alam, called upon the Election Commission to ensure a credible election
A platform of eminent citizens has said they are sceptical that the upcoming general election will be inclusive, as the five previous polls under such a government system were not impartial.
Mentioning that the people have already panicked due to a rising number of incidents of election related violence; they alleged that the government’s activities centring the election did not substantiate its claims of holding inclusive polls.
Speaking on behalf of the platform, called Nagorikder Pokkhe Aamra, Dhaka University Professor Gitiara Nasreen read out a written statement during a press briefing at the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday.
The platform, representing 32 distinguished individuals, made five recommendations to ensure an inclusive election.
Addressing the press briefing, Anu Muhammad said the people had both hopes for and reservations about the election, but the majority was concerned about the prevailing political situation that needs to change.
He also claimed there is currently a reign of terror in the country, as the Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and judiciary are all under the grip of the government.
“Despite the government hoping to hold a fair election under the incumbent administration, the experience of the elections held in 1973, 79, 86, 96 and 2014 does not defend this claim,” he added.
The holding of an inclusive election will be a significant challenge for the incumbent government, Anu Muhammad further said.
Citing the recent upsurge of violence centring on the election, he claimed the government was not taking proper measures to stop such incidents.
“The way the government is functioning in the name of development, democracy, and the spirit of the Liberation War does not raise hopes for a free and fair election,” he said.
According to Anu Muhammad, the Election Commission does not seem to have command over the police and civil administration.
“The Commission is authorised to take action even if the prime minister violates the electoral code,” he said.
Autocracy, fundamentalism and the influence of foreign forces in the country will intensify if the people do not exercise their franchise freely and fairly, he warned, urging citizens to cast their votes to protect democracy.
Noted jurist Dr Shahdeen Malik said the deployment of army during the polls would raise the confidence of the people, but it would dishearten many if the authority of the army was limited.
Barrister Sara Hossain said some of the ruling party candidates were electioneering amid government protocol and other state facilities, breaching the electoral code of conduct.
“They [ruling party candidates] deem themselves beyond accountability and think they do not have to abide by the law,” she said.
Regarding the prime minister campaigning in Dhaka using state protocol, Sara Hossain said: “I think the court, too, is not concerned about the matter. But I still hope [action will be taken].”
Discussing the recent blocking of several new websites, Dr Gitiara Nasreen said rumours will continue to circulate if the people are in fear.
“The media is tasked with providing updates on what happens at polling centres. If their work is restricted and they cannot work independently, rumours will run rampant,” she said.
Photographer Shahidul Alam, who is on bail after being accused of spreading propaganda and false information about the government, said accountability in the government is a must.
“If the government is not scared, why has it blocked news sites?” he added, demanding the immediate reopening of the blocked news portals.