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Universal Election Management Council: Bangladesh perspective
AHM Nouman-

Universal Election Management Council: Bangladesh perspective

AHM Nouman
With opposing stance of two major parties there has already arose a confrontational situation in politics on the debate whether the coming election will be held under a supportive/ caretaker government or not. Not that with restoration of remaining or not remaining caretaker system all problems will be resolved. There will still remain the question of acceptance and non-acceptance of the chief justice as Chief Adviser of caretaker government, council of Advisers, Chief Election Commissioner and Commissioners.For this, in the backdrop of controversial government system, we like to propose forming of ‘Universal Election Management Council (UEMC)’ as a universally acceptable system. We firmly believe, the council would be able to set instance of success in holding neutral, fair election and forming democratic government. We are deeply convinced that it is the political parties who would run the country and go to power. This way democracy would start yielding envisaged result of public welfare from grassroots to state level. However, tolerance for others’ views and mutual respect to each other mainly at the top of political leaders, only can strengthen the process of democracy.
UEMC – main frame content:
The process of nominating candidates for all elections should be according to the frame announced and acceptable by Election Commission. All should abide by it. For instance, according to declaration and rules of Election Commission, no person as possessor of black money, loan defaulter, terrorist, corrupt should be there in the list for nomination. The council shall work as an auxiliary strength to the Election Commission in its neutral, independent, transparent, strong and dynamic stance. It will play its supporting role for political parties, professional organizations, civil society organizations, NGO networks in cultivating democratic culture and behavior towards good governance. If, on principle, decision is taken to constitute the Council, then there may be made further addition to it following detailed discussion among those concerned and consideration of legal side.
UEMC–Constitution and Tenure:
With a view to making national elections smooth, universally acceptable and effective, the Election Commission shall constitute the Council with representatives of political parties, civil society, professionals’ and mass media groups as well as interested individuals. This Council shall discharge its auxiliary responsibility to the Election Commission during pre-nomination and nomination of candidates, electioneering, conduction of election, till announcement of results. This Council on principle will decide within a specific frame on what may be done by whom and where, according to party and policy, and work for implementing that. That is candidates and supporters shall act according to their respective party and policy, ideal and stance remaining within the frame. The tenure of this council shall be nine months prior to the date of holding election and three months post election total 12 months with dispute settlement, if any, vis-à-vis result.
Structure and Formation:
The structure of the Universal Election Management Council (UEMC) shall be of 5 tiers, viz: A. National (128-151) member Executive Committee, Chair: Chief Election Commissioner, B. District (15-21 members), C. Constituency/upazila (15-21 members) D. Union (10-21members) and E. Voting centre (10-21 members). Respective level officials of Election Commission; registered and election participant political parties; civil society, teachers, mass media representatives, professionals, businessmen, lawyers and NGO representatives shall be members of this council. There will be three representatives from each political party of respective level (i). Party President, (ii) Secretary and (iii) Organizing Secretary. There will be active secretarial coordination at five stages of this council management like: (a) voting/polling centre (b) union, (c) constituency, (d) district and (e) national.
1. The respective level/section presidents of current and immediate past government party shall discharge the responsibility of joint presidents. Subject to party approval allied party president may nominate any one in his/her place.
2. Respective level official of Election Commission shall discharge the responsibility of Secretary.
3. Member of Election Working Group (EWG) or representative of Bangladesh Manabadhikar Samonnoy Parishad (BMSP) or Election Commission enlisted observation Organization/NGO shall be the joint secretary.
Nomination Structure:
The process of nominating candidate for election shall almost end in the respective constituency. This Council will accomplish work as an auxiliary in all stages beginning from the nomination process for 300 seats of the Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly) upto announcement of result. Besides, this council and the Election Commission may fix the criterion and credibility for eligible candidate through discussion, if necessary.
Who to Decide Candidates’ Nomination and How? Local party committee or party committee formed on proposal and support of Election Commission in each area shall nominate candidate. District and central committees shall only extend their approval. UEMC will hold two meetings on two occasions in each union under JS constituencies. The first is awareness building and preparatory meeting. The venue of the meeting can be union parishad premises or any open congregation site/ground subject to discussion among the initiators. For both the meetings, all possible publicity steps including miking, drumming at union level shall be taken so that it becomes possible to enlist the persons nominated with local public support. After finishing meetings in all unions, names of all provisionally enlisted candidates by party shall be announced through larger meetings at upazila parishad/constituency level.
The respective UEMC shall prepare the candidates’ list of the constituency scrutinizing the lists of all candidates received from its area. Sorting and verifying in favour of siding with welfare, education, health, honesty, courage, acceptability, morale and will etc, it will submit the list to District Council. The District Council, after its sorting and verification, shall reach the list to the National Committee. Besides this, the respective political parties, finalizing their party wise selection, shall send their recommendation for nomination to the National Committee – which falls in the existing rules and one/two parties have also followed it during the past election. According to this, the UEMC at central level shall provide its final approval and then move to next phase.
All candidates, irrespective of from party or being independent should use poster of same colour and size, which the Election Commission has already initiated. Public meeting shall be held at each village, locality, union, congregation ground, growth centre. As such at total of 20-25 meetings will be held in whole area. All candidates shall speak from the same rostrum of their respective promises and ideals.
Election Fund/Expense:
The Election Commission can centrally provide election fund directly to the candidate or party. Election shall be easier on reduction of election expenses. It will diminish the influence of black money holders. As a result it will be easier for honest, good and competent candidates to receive nomination. At present political parties are not extending nomination to many honest and good candidates on plea of election expense. Or the necessary fund for functioning of the Council shall be provided by the Election Commission. Or at constituent level say in an average 5 (five) candidates shall provide taka 25 (twenty five) lacs (US 2.5 million) each means totaling 1 (one) crore 25 (twenty five) lacs taka (US 12.5 million). This total money shall be the fund for a constuent wise managemenet cost by the concern constituent as per set expenditure schedule & budget approved by the central UEMC with proper & total guideline, from central to Voting centre level. Or on approval of the government the donor organizations viz. the Asia Foundation, UNDP, European Union as well as other interested international or local providers may extend unconditional fund for Election Management.
To make the election of the 11th National Sangsad acceptable to all let us come together to:
a) constitute Universal Election Management Council from grassroots to national level; b) nominate competent candidate through built-in participatory decentralized process; c) reject the corrupt, exploiter, terrorist, loan defaulter, trade syndicate, power greedy, fake development exponent candidates; d) make the built-in system Election Commission independent and strong; e) create ideal political culture through constitution of Universal Election Management Council.
On 10th April 2008 I, as representative of Bangladesh Manobadhikar Samannoy Parishad (CCHRB) was in Nepal to observe the election of Constituent Assembly of Nepal while many other National and International observers were here. On 9th April at a pre-election day press briefing I asked Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel the Chief Election Commissioner `whether can we feel safe and secured in the midst of blood-shed movement and probable threats of the Maoist armed cadres’? In reply he mentioned with strong voice that `all political parties including the Maoist assured us, they are participating in the poll and election will be held and that will be in peaceful atmosphere. So we assure your safety & you go for election observation without any fear and hindrance’. In fact, that reality happened on ground. So we can say here that, with all good wishes & commitment of all Political Parties our Election Commission will also be become stronger. Simultaneously forming an Universal Election Management Council with active participation of all political parties in our country shall also possible to run a smooth & fair election. To take forward the UEMC in the process, we urge the Bangladesh Election Commission, concern authority and International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) to play their promotional role.
(AHM Nouman is the Founder & CEO, Development Organization of the Rural Poor- DORP & Ex-President, Coordination Council for Human Rights in Bangladesh (CCHRB), Laureate, Gusi Peace Price International. Email: [email protected])