Former Election Commissioner Shakhawat Hossain on Monday said now there is no environment in the country to arrange local government elections under the banners of political parties.
“It’s not irrational, but there’s no environment right now. You’ll have to create the atmosphere,” he said while addressing a discussion at the city’s Cirdap auditorium.
The Election Working Group (EWG), a coalition of 28 non-government organisations, arranged the roundtable discussion titled ‘The State of Elections in Bangladesh’.
Shakhawat said the government’s move to make the local body elections partisan ones came without discussions with anyone. “It’ll create a problem. Nomination business will increase at the grassroots level as well.”
The Cabinet on October 12 approved amendment proposals to some laws for holing all local elections on party lines.
About illegal use of money in elections, Shakhawat said, controlling money use is a very difficult job as evidence is hardly found about that. “It’s the biggest problem also in India despite having a monitoring committee there.”
Candidates transfer money through fexiload, bkash and many other channels, and even pay the dues and small loans of voters they owe to local grocery shops and banks, he added.
Country Representative of the Asia Foundation Hasan M Mazumder also spoke at the programme, moderated by EWG steering committee member Prof Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah.
EWG Director Dr Md Abdul Alim presented the keynote paper on the state of elections in Bangladesh.
In the keynote, he said the EWG recorded 683 cases of election irregularities — stuffing, refusal to facilitate balloting, intimidation and driving out polling agents — in the three city corporation elections held on April 28 last in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Saying that the city corporation elections 2015 were not considered credible, he said 253 cases of fraud were recorded in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), while 229 in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and 201 in Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), he added.
Among the frauds, 55 incidents of ballot stuffing in DSCC, while 46 in DNCC and 37 in CCC.
Besides, 66 incidents of violence occurred in DSCC, 26 in DNCC and five in CCC.
The EWG also detected that 24, 19 and 31 polling agents were thrown out of polling stations respectively in DSCC, DNCC and CCC.
The coalition of NGOs recorded 18,73 cases of election fraud or irregularities in the six-phase 4th upazila election, held last year.
About the 2014 parliamentary polls, it observed that the election was constitutionally correct, but credibility has been seriously questioned for lack of inclusiveness. However, it observed that the city corporation elections 2013 were relatively peaceful and voting process was generally fair.
The EWG placed a set of recommendations — establishing a neutral election-time government, dissolving parliament before polls, reinvigorating the Election Commission and overhauling the electoral legal framework — for making parliamentary elections fair.