Free and fair election is a basic requirement for the triumph of democracy and accordingly part VIII of the constitution of Bangladesh provides for free and fair election. The Election Commission (EC), headed by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is endowed with the responsibility of supervising all the elements of an election. Art 119 of the Constitution vests the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for the parliamentary elections and conduct of such election on the Election Commission. The Commission has to supervise, control and direct each and every step of the process to ensure free and fair election.
To ensure the impartiality of elections, The Constitution declares that the Election Commission shall be independent in the exercise of its functions and be subject only to the Constitution and any other law (118(4)).
But it is unfortunate that Bangladesh, after 35 years of independence has to experience a regime where the list containing the names of the voters is wrought with fallacy. Though disagreement over election results is common practice, never before has there been so much controversy regarding the electoral rolls prior to an election.
The issue of Election Commission in Bangladesh it’s independent and Constitutional Provision. It is absurd for Election commission Chairman Independence should not be questioned as it has shown its impartiality at all times.
Claiming to be independent is one thing, but convincing the people through its conduct that it is independent and credible is a different kettle offish. Credibility must be earned by deeds rather than through public pronouncements.
It will take more than words to convince thinking Malaysians that the commission is a credible institution capable of ensuring free and fair elections.
Numerous irregularities and abuses have been brought to the attention of the commission but its ability to tackle them has left much to be desired and has raised questions as to its credibility.
Our Constitution accordingly has provided for an independent body known as the Election Commission. (Art 118). The Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and such number of their Election Commissioners as the president of the republic may direct. The president appoints the Election Commissioners. When the Election Commission consists of more than one person, The Chief Election Commissioner acts as the Chairman of the Commission.
The conditions of service of the Election Commissioners are determined by the order of the president. This provision may seem to be contradictory to the safeguarding of independence of the commission. The President being a political figure may affect the independence of the commission in the discharge of their duties. But in practice, this may not be possible for subsequent provision which states that an Election Commissioner is not to be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
Definition & Delimitation of Constitution
Definition of Independence:
The state or condition of being free from dependence, subjection, or control. Political independence is the attribute of a nation or state which is entirely autonomous, and not subject to the government, control, or dictation of any exterior power.
Not dependent; not subject to control, restriction, modification, or limitation from a given outside source.
Definition of Election:
(a) The act of selecting one or more from a greater number for an office.
(b) The exercise of his choice by a man left to his own free will to take or to do one thing or another. It is the obligation imposed upon a person to choose between two inconsistent or alternative rights or claims. Thus in Scarf v. Jar dine,(l 882)
(i) “Election” is when a man is left to his own free will to take or doe one thing or another which he pleaseth” (Termes de la Ley). Thus, Bauldwin C.J., puts this case, ” Home face lease reservant devaunt tiel feast un liber de pepper ou saffron, ore deviant le feast est in le election del lessee quell de eux il voile pier”( Dyer, 18 a).
(ii) From this simple common law rule has been evolved the eqitable doctrine of election, of which the leading case is Streatfield v. Streatfield(l White & Tudor, 416), and which doctrine, as stated at the beginning of white & Tudor’s notes to that case, is this “Election is
the obligation imposed upon a party to choose between two inconsistent, or alternative, rights or claims, in cases where there is a clear intention of the person from whom he derives one that he should not enjoy both. Every case of election, therefore, presupposes a plurality of gifts or rights, with an intention, expressed or implied, of the party who has a right to control one or both that one should be a substitute for the other.
The party who is to take has a choice, but he cannot enjoy the benefit of both Election Commissioners are commissioners appointed by the Crown on the joint address or both houses of parliament to inquire into the report made by judges on the trial of an election petition (q.v.) that corrupt and illegal practices took place on an extensive scale at an election. The commissioners report to the parliament, whereupon the constituency may be disfranchised by statute or by refusal of the House of Commons to issue a writ.
(1) Elections may be defined as political process through which the people choose their representatives for their political institutions.
(2) Election means an election-
(a) In which all parties participate;
(b) Whose outcome is broadly accepted as legitimate and accurate.
(c) Where violence and intimidation do not keep people from voting or expressing their opinion;
(d) Where minorities are not singled out for persecution;
(e) Where the playing filed is more or less even[= leveled]; and
(f) Where electoral process meets the international standards of fair play and is consistent with the constitution and other laws of the land.
Delimitation of Constituencies:
1. Delimitation Commission/Officers:-
For the delimitation of constituencies for election to national and local bodies, a delimitation commission is usually appointed at the national level. In the case of the demarcation of wards for local councils, the task is usually entrusted to Delimitation Offers appointed by the Election Authority.
2. Principles for delimitation:-
The principles which are usually kept in view in the demarcation of constituencies or wards are:
(a) Due regard should be had to administrative convenience. This means that constituencies should be demarcated within the framework of the administrative units such as districts, municipalities, local areas, etc.
(b) Each constituency should be a compact area. This means that the area under a constituency should be continuous and contiguous.
(c) Due regard should be had to geographical factors. This means that in the framing of constituencies such natural barriers as rivers, mountains, major, canals, major roads etc. should not be crossed. It is necessary that facilities of communications should be kept in view in the framing of constituencies.
(d) The distribution of population among the constituencies should be uniform. This means that the population comprised in each constituency should as far as possible be uniform, subject to minor marginal variations.
(e) Each constituency should be homogeneous. This means that the demarcation of constituencies should be done with due regard to the character of population. As far as possible areas where people have common interests should be grouped in one constituency.
6. Establishment of Election Commission:
According to Art. 118 constitution of Bangladesh. There shall be an Election Commission for Bangladesh consisting of a Chief Election Commissioner and such number of the other Election Commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time direct, and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (if any) shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf, be made by the President.
(2) When the Election Commission consists of more than person, the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the chairman thereof.
(3) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution the term of office of an Election Commissioner shall be five years from the date on which he enters upon his office, and-
(a) A person who has held office as Chief Election Commissioner shall not be eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic;
(b) Any other Election Commissioner shall, on ceasing to hold office as such, be eligible for appointment as Chief Election Commissioner but shall not be otherwise, eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic.
(4) The Election Commission shall be independent in the exercise of its functions and subject only to this Constitution and any other law.
(5) Subject to the provisions of any law made by parliament, the conditions of service of Election Commissioners shall be such as the President may, by order, determine:
Provide that an Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
(6) An Election Commissioner may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the president.
7. Functions of Election Commission:
The Constitution vests the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the preparation of the electoral rolls for the presidential and parliamentary elections and conduct of such elections in the election Commission. The Commission is required to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections, delimit the constituencies of parliamentary elections and to prepare electoral rolls for the presidential and parliamentary elections in accordance with the Constitution and any law passed by parliament in this regard. [Art. 1 19(1)] Election is along, elaborate and complicated process which starts with the notification for holding the elections and ends with the declaration of the result of polling in the manner prescribed by law.2[Shah Alam v Mujibul Haq, 41 DLR(AD) 68; Mohinder SinghV.Chief Election Commissioner,AIR1978 SC851].The Commission has to supervise, control and direct each and every step of the process to ensure free and fair election and the commission must be deemed to have all the power and discretion to ensure free and fair election as that is the manifest intendment of the Constitution in providing for the Commission. Parliament may by law regulate the exercise of the power by the commission, but such a law has to be in conformity with the Constitution and it cannot in any way curtail or diminish the effectiveness of the Commission in holding free and fair elections. In exercise of the power the Commission has two limitations-it must act in conformity with the Constitution and the laws validly made by Parliament and like all other functionaries of the Republic it must not act arbitrarily.
The Election Commission is a composite body and performs its functions as such. The Chief Election Commissioner, on his own, has only the discretion to postpone the holding of any bye -election under the proviso to art. 123(4) of the Constitution if he is of the opinion that it is not possible to hold the election within the specified period of ninety days for reasons of an act of God. Art.4 of the Representation of the People Order, 1972 provides that the Commission may authorise its Chairman or any of its members or any of its officers to exercise and perform all or any of its powers and functions under the Order. Thus the Chief Election Commissioner or any Election Commissioner or any officer of the Election Commission cannot perform any of the functions of the Commission unless he is so authorized by the Commission. The Chief Election Commissioner, being ill and going abroad, authorized an Election Commissioner to act as the Acting Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioner decided a dispute relating to the allocation of election symbol. The Appellate Division held the decision to be corum non judice as in the absence of authorisation by the Commission, The Election Commissioner was not competent to decide the dispute [Jatia Party v. Election Commission, 2001 Bid (AD) 10; Anwar Hossain v. Election Commission, 2001 BLD]. There no provision for an Acting Chief Election Commissioner either in the Constitution or in the representation of the peole Order, 1972. Question arises as to whether the decision of the Commission in any matter has to be unanimous. The Indian Supreme Court answered in the negetive stating that unless otherwise required by law, the decision of a multi- member body may be a decision of the majority members.
The provisions of art. 119 (1) are confined to the election of the president and the members of parliament. However, the Commission may be entrusted with the power and duty of conducting other elections by law made by parliament in the exercise of power given under art. 119 (2). Even though art. 119(2) does not speak of the supervisory power of the Commission, The Constitution does not envisage anything else than free and fair election and any law which stifles the hand of the Commission in ensuring free and fair election will not pass the test of constitutionality. It is for this reason that the Appellate Division conceded the inherent power of the Commission to ensure free and fair election in the local government bodies even when r.68 of the Upazila Parishad (Election Rules) (same as r. 70 qioted above) was omitted. Later in Altaf Hossain v. Abul Kashem[45 DLR (AD) 53]9 the Appellate Division took the view that the inherent power is to be exercised to suppliment the statutory rules (and, of course, the constitution and the law made by ) with the sole purpose of ensuring free and fair electins. Court objerved-
This power is to be exercised with utmost restraint for frequent use of it is likely to render other statutory functionaries ineffective. It is rather difficult to draw a line of demarcation of the field where this should be exercised and where should not. But from the experience it is found that sometimes-statutory functionaries on the spot do not make timely report as to any disturbance during pol or large- scale rigging at the time of counting of ballot papers either through correction or from dishonest motive. So, the general rule that when the election has been held peacefully and no report has been made about any disturbance or rigging by the presiding Officer or the Returning Officer, then the Election Commission has no power to interfere, cannot be taken for universal application.
The superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls for elections to the office of president and to parliament, the conduct of such elections [and of election to the office of president,] shall, in vest in the Election Commission, which shall, in accordance with this Constitution and any other lay-
The Election Commission shall perform such functions, in addition to those specified in the forgoing clauses, as may be prescribed by this Constitution or by any other law.
Altaf Hussain vs Abul Kashem 45 DLR (AD) 53 inter alia that Election Commission’s inherent power under the provision of superintendence, control and Direction should be construed to mean the power to supplement the statutory rules with the Sole purpose of ensuring free and fair election.
Afzal Hossain vs Chief Election Commissioner 45 DLR 25512 inter alia that When the law is silent, not expressly providing as to what is to be done or not to be done in an election matter, the Election Commission has plenary power to act under Article 119, Which is the resevoir of power for it to ensure fair election.
Afzal Hossain vs Chief Election Commissioner and others 43 DLR 701 ‘3 inter alia that The Election Commission has over-all control in election matters and it shall be competent to Correct an apparent illegality or to remove misapprehension for the sake of fair Election.
Information on Bangladesh Electoral system
Bangladesh achieved freedom on December 16, 1971 through a historic nine-month bloody war of liberation. Since independence, the people of the Republic have cast their votes directly.
Bangladesh started its journey with the Parliamentary System of Government, then switched over to the Presidential System and in 1991 reverted to the Parliamentary system.
According to Article 65 of the Constitution there is a Parliament (known as the House of the Nation) in which, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the legislative powers of the Republic are vested.
Parliament consists of three hundred members elected in accordance with law from single-member territorial constituencies. There are thirty seats reserved exclusively for women members who are elected according to law by the members of Parliament. Parliament has tenure of 5 years unless dissolved sooner.
8. General Election of Members of Parliament:
The general election of members of Parliament is held within ninety days after Parliament is dissolved, whether by reason of the expiration of its term or otherwise than by reason of such expiration.
9. Election Commission:
According to Article 119 of the constitution the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for elections to the office of President and to Parliament and
The conduct of such elections vest in the Election Commission which shall, in accordance with this Constitution and any other law –
(a) Hold elections to the office of President;
(b) Hold elections of members of Parliament;
(c) Delimit the constituencies for the purpose of elections to Parliament; and
(d) Prepare electoral rolls for the purpose of elections to the office of
The term of office of the Election Commissioner is five years from the date on which he enters upon his office.
A person who has held office as Chief Election Commissioner is not eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic after his retirement. Any other Election Commissioner is, however, eligible for appointment as Chief Election Commissioner but is not otherwise eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic. Such provisions have been made in order to keep the Election Commissioners free from any kind of temptation to secure any job after their official period. These are useful in maintaining the integrity of the Commissioners especially when they have to work under political forces.
The Election Commissioner is to be independent in the discharge of its functions. It is subject to the Constitution and any other law.
10. President and to Parliament:
The modes and procedures for holding elections to the members of Parliament are laid down in the Representation of the People Order, 1972, as amended in pursuance of law. Candidature for More Than one Constituency and Bar against Double Membership:
No person may at the same time be a candidate for more than five constituencies. The Constitution also provides that no person shall at the same time be a Member of Parliament in respect of more than one Constituency. In the event of a person being elected for more than one Constituency, he shall vacate all other seats except one, as per procedure laid down in law.
11. Electoral Roll:
Article 121 of the Constitution provides that there shall be one electoral roll for each Constituency for the purposes of election to Parliament and no special electoral rolls shall be prepared so as to classify electors according to religion, race, caste or sex. Article 122 of the Constitution provides that the elections to Parliament shall be on the basis of adult franchise. A person shall be entitled to be enrolled as elector on the electoral roll for a constituency delimited the purpose of election to Parliament, if he/she –
(a) Is a citizen of Bangladesh
(b) Is not less than eighteen years of age ;
(c) Does not stand declared by a competent court to be of unsound mind; and
(d) Is or is deemed by law to be a resident of that constituency.
Sub-section (8) of section 7 of the Electoral Rolls Ordinance, 1982 also empowers the Election Commission to cause the electoral rolls to be re-grouped, if necessary, for the purpose of election to different elective offices.
For the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls the procedures have been prescribed in the Electoral Rolls Ordinance, 1982.
Any elector of a Constituency may propose or second for election to that constituency, the name of any person qualified to be a member under the Constitution and the Representation of the People order, 1972.
No nomination paper is accepted unless-
a sum of Taka five thousand is deposited in cash or in the Government treasury by the candidate or by any person on his behalf at the time of submission of nomination paper.
14. Election to the Office of President:
The President of Bangladesh is, according to Article 48 of the Constitution, elected by the members of the Parliament in accordance with law. The mode and procedures for holding election to the office of President are laid down in the Presidential Elections Act, 1991 and the Presidential Election Rules, 1991 made there under. The President holds office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office.
15. Local Body Elections:
Article 59 of the Constitution the local Government in every administrative unit of the Republic shall be entrusted to bodies, composed of persons elected in accordance with law.
Existing laws and rules governing the conduct of elections to different local bodies empower the Election Commission to conduct the following local level elections:
(a) Union Parishads (Union Councils)
(b) City Corporations
(c) Pourashavas (Municipal Committees)
(d) Hill District Councils
Creation of some more local bodies is under active consideration of the present Government.
ELECTION MANAGEMENT BODY
16. Establishment of the Election Commission:
Article 118 of the Constitution provides for the establishment of an Election Commission for Bangladesh consisting of a Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time direct. The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (if any) is made by the President. When the Election Commission consists of more than one person, the Chief Election Commissioner is to act as its Chairman. Under the Constitution the term of office of any Election Commissioner is five years from the date on which he enters upon office. A person who has held office as Chief Election Commissioner is not eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic. Any other Election Commissioner is, on ceasing to hold such office, eligible for appointment as Chief Election Commissioner, but is not eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic.
Powers of Election Commission (Article 118(4) and 126 of the Constitution, read with Article 4 of the Representation of the People Order, 1972):
The Election Commission is an independent constitutional body in the exercise of its functions and subject only to the Constitution and any other law. The Commission may authorize its Chairman or any of its members or any of its officers to exercise and perform all or any of its powers and functions under the law.
Article 126 of the Constitution and Articles 4 and 5 of the Representation of the People Order, 1972 provide that it shall be the duty of all executive authorities to assist the Election Commission in the discharge of its functions.
The Commission has the power to require any person or authority to perform such functions or render such assistance for the purpose of electron as it may direct.
Election Commission Secretariat:
The Election Commission has a full-fledged Secretariat under it to render all assistance to,”execute the decisions and orders of the Commission. A Secretary to the Government heads the Election Commission Secretariat.
17. Functions of the Election Commission Secretariat:
Assistance to the Election Commission for –
(a) Preparation of electoral rolls for use in all national and local bodies elections.
(b) Delimitation of territorial constituencies for the purposes of election to Parliament.
(c) Conduct of referendum and elections (including bye-election/re-election) to the office of President, Parliament, Paurashavas (Municipal Committees), City Corporations, Union Parishads (Union Councils) and Three Hill Districts Councils etc.
(d) Reservation and allocation of symbols to political parties/candidates, when required;
(e) Supervision of polling arrangements throughout the country on the eve of each election and appointment of polling personnel, namely: Returning Officers. Assistant
Returning Officers, Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers;
(f) Printing and supply of ballot papers to all polling stations located all over the country;
(g) Procurement of election materials including ingredients for the manufacture of indelible ink and their distribution amongst the polling stations;
(h) Procurement, supply, storage and maintenance of ballot boxes throughout the Country;
(i) Setting up of elaborate machinery throughout the country for collection and Dissemination of result of elections;
(j) Consolidation of all election results and their formal publication in the official Gazette, as required by law;
(k) Constitution of Tribunal for the disposal of election petitions and performance of Such other functions in this regard as may be prescribed by any other law;
(1) Framing and publicity pertaining to the elections and their implementation;
(m) Collection and compilation of election data for research, reference and records;
(n) Preparation and publication of comprehensive reports of all types of elections; (os) Regulation and control of officers and staff of the Election Commission Secretariat and its field establishment; (p) All laws on subjects allocated to it.
18. Field Offices:
(a) Divisional: There are 5 Deputy Election Commissioners posted at 5 Divisional Headquarters. For the newly created Sylhet Division, arrangement for the posting of a Deputy Election Commissioner is in the process.
Functions of the Divisional Offices are to maintain liaison between the Election Commission Secretariat and the subordinate field level offices and to co-ordinate the work relating to conduct of all types of elections and registration of voters and preparation of electoral rolls including day to day amendment and correction in the list of electoral rolls and other matters as and when entrusted by the Election Commission.
(b) District: There are 83 Election Offices in the 64 District Headquarters headed by District Election Officer.
The District Election Officers carry out all work relating to registration of voters, printing of voters’ list, management of national and local level elections, training of polling personnel and all logistical arrangements for elections. As an officer of the Election Commission, the District Election Officer renders all possible assistance to the Returning Officer and polling personnel with forms, packets, manuals, instructions and supply of ballot boxes, electoral rolls, ballot papers and maintains all accounts for expenses incurred for different elections.
At the lowest tier of the field organization, there are Thana Election Officers in all thanas. The main functions of the Thana Election Officer are to assist divisional/district offices in the discharge of functions relating to elections. Returning Officers and Asstt.
For all national and local level election, Returning Officers and Asst. Returning officers are appointed from among government officials by the Election Commission or by authorized officers of the Commission for conducting specified election. Presiding Officers and Polling Officers:
Within the constituency, Polling Stations, each generally having five polling booths, are organized in such a way that about four hundred voters can cast their votes at a booth between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the polling day. Each polling station is headed by a Presiding Officer (PO) and each booth by an Assistant Presiding Officer (APO). Each APO is assisted by two Polling Officers. All these officials – POs, APOs and Polling Officers are drawn from government and non-government organizations, taking into account their experience, abilities, integrity and courage.
19. Budgetary provisions:
The Election Commission has to plan its budget taking into account the prevailing situation in the country. In planning budget estimates, it has to examine, on the basis of long and practical experiences, the involvement of important activities together with minor but sensitive issues that are likely to take place during elections. Keeping in mind the constrained financial resources of the Government as well as neutrality of the Election Commission, the election budget is prepared. Training and orientation of election officials, law-enforcing agencies, and polling agents have now a days become very much a part of the election process. Moreover for the motivation and orientation of voters to ensure peaceful and fair election there should be adequate publicity in the mass media, Radio and T.V. The Election Commission has to ensure adequate budgetary allocations for these activities.
Besides for preparation of electoral rolls throughout the country, the Commission has to plan its budget taking into account the costs of the administrative machinery at the central and field levels, deployment of enumerators, supervisors, assisting clerks, revising authorities, Assistant Registration Officers and Registration Officers, procurement and supply of materials, printing of different types of publications and training instructions, instructions, different types of forms for registration of voters etc.
RELATIONS WITH THE PARTIES AND MEDIA:
The Election Commission maintains close contact and relations with all the political parties. On matters of election schedule, election process and over-all arrangement for election, dialogue is initiated with all political parties. Discussion on issues relating to voter registration, preparation and updating of electoral rolls and allied matters is also conducted with political parties.
Maintenance of peace and order figures prominently in the discussions the Election Commission conducts with the political parties. Efforts are made to seek Co-operation and understanding to ensure prevention of terrorism and violence before, during And after the polls. The Election Code of Conduct formulated in consultation with the major Political parties is enforced on them for strict adherence, without any I, et-up or discrimination.
The Election Commission, after detailed discussions with all political parties, undertakes various tasks for:
a. Updating the electoral rolls, setting up of polling stations, allocation of symbols to the political parties, preventing undesirable pre-poll activities by appointing Judicial Officers. In addition, vigilance and observation teams are set up at the grass root level to prevent pre-poll irregularities and untoward incidents.
b. Creating confidence among the people through improvement of the overall law and order situation, enforcement of the Election Code of Conduct, voter education programmes through mass media including radio and TV, posters, rallies and by providing security cover, both stationery and mobile, on the polling day.
c. Arranging participation of the political parties to observe the polling process, counting of votes, consolidation and declaration of results so as to make the entire polling process transparent to all.
The media play a vital role in publicizing various issues relating to election. The Election Commission carries on briefing of the media on regular basis so that people are informed of all developments. The Election Commission on priority basis attends to problems, difficulties and complaints, which are highlighted in the media, promptly. The media also play an important role in educating the voters on the importance of their votes and also the need for their active participation in the electoral process. The Election Commission maintains close and regular contact with the media seeking co-operation for balanced, non-partisan news coverage and editorial views encouraged to offer constructive suggestions for improvement of the overall election environment and to express views impartially before and after the polling.
The Election Commission takes care to see that the state-owned newspapers and electronic media like radio and television provide balanced and objective news coverage of contesting political parties. In this behalf clear guidelines are prepared and issued for strict adherence, covering also speeches of the political party chiefs and interviews over radio and television. During the last election an innovative interview programme on TV called “SHOBINOYE JANTE CHAI” (May we know with due respect?) to which major political parties were invited to express their views on various national issues through a question-answers session attracted massive attention of the people and were widely acclaimed.
THE REGISTRATION OF ELECTORS AND THE ELECTORAL ROLL:
20. Responsibility of the Election Commission:
Under the Constitution it is the mandatory responsibility of the Election Commission to prepare electoral rolls for the purpose of election to Parliament.
It is also the responsibility of the Election Commission to prepare such rolls for the purpose of election to the local bodies under relevant laws.
The Registration Officer (District Election Officer), under the direction, control and supervision of the Election Commission, obtains a statement in the prescribed form from each eligible voter who fulfils qualifying conditions. Every statement is required to be signed by or bear the thumb impression of the persons eligible for enrolment as voters. Each statement contains a certificate from the authorised person in the prescribed form to the effect that the statement made under law has been obtained after a personal visit to the house and also a certificate by the supervisor to the effect that the entries thereon have been verified and corrected after a house-to-house visit.
Eligibility for Registration A person shall be entitled to be enrolled as elector on the electoral roll for a constituency delimited the purpose of election to Parliament, if he/she –
(a) is a citizen of Bangladesh ;
(b) is not less than eighteen years of age ;
(c) does not stand declared by a competent court to be of unsound mind; and
(d) is or is deemed by law to be a resident of that constituency.
21. Registration Process:
The following are the steps in the registration:
(1) A statement in the prescribed form is obtained by the enumerator from each eligible voter through house to house visit.
(2) Each statement is verified by the supervisor who has to certify to the effect that the entries have been verified or corrected after house to house visit.
(3) The draft electoral roll is thereafter prepared on the basis of the statements and published by the Registration Officer after verification of entries to the extent of at least ten percent through house to house visit by an authorized officer together with a notice inviting claims or objections. The period of lodging claims and objections is fifteen days.
(4) Each claim or objection is to be addressed to the Revising Authority appointed by the Election Commission for this purpose and presented to the Revising Authority or the Registration Officer or the Assistant Registration Officer.
(5) Notice for hearing of claims or objections is to be issued by the Revising Authority and served either personally or by post. Claims and objections will be heard and disposed of after considering verbal or written objections or holding inquiry or summary inquiry, if required.
(6) The decision of the Revising Authority is final.
(7) The Registration Officer, after incorporating necessary changes in the draft electoral roll, publishes the final electoral roll in the prescribed manner.
Even after final publication of electoral rolls, there are provisions for amendments, i.e. correction, inclusion or deletion and revision of electoral rolls in the prescribed manner. Updating of the electoral rolls is thus a continuous process.
22. Process for preparation and issuance of Identity Card to the voters:
In 1994 an amendment was introduced in the relevant laws to the effect that no voter shall be given a ballot paper in the polling station, unless he is in possession of a valid identity card. Thereafter the Commission launched a scheme for issuance of identity cards.
When about one-third of the work was completed, the schedule for June 1996 election of Parliament was announced. As a result, the work for preparation of identity cards was suspended. The Election Commission has in the meantime prepared a revised scheme to complete the work so that identity cards can be issued to all voters before the next elections, and also used for multiple purposes.
23. Improvement of the system of Registration:
There are certain problems faced by the field level officials during the registration process namely – (i) non-availability of the dwellers in the proper place during working hours, (ii) lack of holding number in rural areas including some cases in urban areas, (iii) determination of age, (iv) changes of occupation and residence, (v) illiteracy, (vi) lack of identification of proper individuals and the like.
To explore the possibility of simplification of the existing registration system and to resolve the field problems, the Election Commission has planned to undertake an exercise in this behalf with the assistance of a consultant. In this process, the census mechanisms and existing linkages between local government, health department and other relevant governmental agencies, which are used for population, statistics and voter’s list will be reviewed. Steps have also been taken in the meantime to simplify the registration form, which is considered to be complicated by some quarters. With a view to ensuring continuous updating process of registration, necessary proposals are also under consideration for computerized electoral database. Steps are also being taken for mass awareness and voter education which include workshops, motivation rallies, awareness campaign, producing and disseminating posters, leaflets, television and radio spots. Steps are also being taken for comprehensive training programmers, updating the Training of Trainers Manual, other manuals and strengthening the Election Commission.
PREPARING FOR THE ELECTION (PARLIAMENT):
Setting up administrative machinery: For preparing for the election, the Election Commission has to make all arrangements for setting up the administrative machinery in the Divisional, District and Thana Headquarters and to undertake activities, namely, delimitation of constituencies, preparation of electoral rolls and its updating, appointment of Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers, setting up of polling stations, appointment of polling personnel, publication of notification specifying the different stages of election which are discussed in the following paragraphs.
24. Delimitation of Constituencies (Parliament):
According to the provisions of section 8 of the Delimitation of Constituencies Ordinance, 1976, the Election Commission delimited the territorial constituencies and published the list of Constituencies on 30th May 1995. Since the law provides that delimitation of territorial constituencies is to be made upon the completion of each census for the purpose of general election to Parliament to be held following of each census, unless otherwise directed by the Commission for reasons to be recorded in writing, the delimitation of 300 constituencies published on 30th May, 1995 stands valid for use in the general election of Parliament held subsequently until the next census.
25. Preparation of electoral rolls:
The electoral rolls prepared and published on 7th October 1995 were updated in accordance with the provisions of the relevant law for use in the Parliament election held on 12th June, 1996, and the by-elections held subsequently.
26. Appointment of Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers:
For the purpose of election of a Member of a Constituency, the Commission appoints a Returning Officer for each constituency. A person may also be appointed as Returning Officer for two or more constituencies. The Commission may appoint as many Assistant Returning Officers as may be necessary. Traditionally DCs (Deputy Commissioner) and TNOs (Thana Nirbahi Officer) are appointed as ROs (Returning Officer) and AROs (Assistant Returning Officer) respectively. It may be said that according to law a person may not be appointed as Assistant Returning Officer for more than one constituency.
It is the duty of a Returning Officer to do all such acts and things as may be necessary for effectively conducting an election in accordance with the laws and the rules. Subject to the superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, the Returning Officer supervises all works within his jurisdiction in the district in connection with the conduct of election and also performs such other duties as may be entrusted to him by the Commission.\
27. Setting up of Polling Stations:
The Returning Officer, before such time as the Commission may fix, submits to the Commission a list of Polling stations, needed to be provided in a constituency. The Commission may make such alterations in the said list of polling stations as it may consider necessary and is required, at least fifteen days before the polling day, to publish in the official Gazette the final list of Polling stations specifying the area the electors will be entitled to vote at each polling station.
The Polling station must be set up in a public building with facilities for secret casting of votes for an average of 2500 voters and under no circumstances it should be housed in a place within the influence of any candidate or political party. Peace and order inside the polling station is a necessary prerequisite for fair election. Easy dispatch of election materials to the polling station, arrangement for their safe and proper storage, easy movement of the polling personnel, convenience of voters, sufficient accommodation, etc. also determine the selection of a polling station. A Polling station has usually five booths.
28. Appointment of Presiding Officer, Assistant Presiding Officer and Polling Officer:
The Returning Officer, by a notice in writing, requires all heads of Offices, institutions and establishments, whether Government or non-government, in the district, to provide him with a list of their officers and employees of such grade as he may specify for the preparation of a Panel of Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers from among them. After preparation of the panel, the Returning Officer sends a copy thereof to the heads of all the offices, institutions and establishments whose officers and employees are included in the Panel with the request to place the services of these officers and employees at the disposal of the Commission for use for election purposes and also forwards a copy of the Panel to the Commission.
The Returning Officer appoints from the Panel for each polling station a Presiding Officer and such number of Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers to assist the Presiding Officers, as the Returning Officer may consider necessary. The Election Commission directs the Returning Officer to select such honest, impartial and courageous officers and employees as polling personnel who can tackle odd situations and are capable of maintaining peace and order at the polling stations.
The Presiding Officer conducts the poll in accordance with laws and rules and is responsible for maintaining order at the polling station and also reports to the Returning Officer any fact or incident which may, in his opinion, affect the fairness of poll.
29. Training of Polling Personnel:
Since holding of a free, fair and impartial election depends to a great extent on the efficiency of the polling officials, the Election Commission conducts training to make polling officials conversant with the electoral laws and regulations, need for their total neutrality and effective enforcement of laws. The Electoral Training Institute has been set up to train polling officials, Political workers; media etc. especially on election related laws and allied issues. Training courses are also conducted at divisional, district and thana levels. Moreover, the training institute provides facilities for training regarding voting system. Prohibited acts during the elections, election offences concerning candidates, election agents, polling agents, political activists and voters and also procedures to be followed by the members of law enforcing agencies during election.
30. Supply of Electoral Roll (Parliament):
The Election Commission provides the Returning Officer for each Constituency with Copies of electoral rolls for the constituency.
The Returning Officer provides the Presiding Officer of each polling station with copies of electoral rolls containing the names of the electors entitled to vote at that polling station.
31. Calling upon the electors to elect a member from each constituency and issue of election programmed (Parliament):
For the purpose of holding election for constituting Parliament, the Commission holds dialogue with the political parties for the election schedule and by notification in the official Gazette calls upon the electors to elect a member from each constituency and specifies, in relation to each constituency, the following in the notification:
– a day on or before which the nomination of candidates may be filed ;
– a day or days for the scrutiny of nomination papers.
– a day on or before which candidature may be withdrawn.
– a day, at least fifteen days after the withdrawal day, for the taking of poll.
32. Disposal of Appeal Against the order of Rejection of Nomination Paper:
After the date fixed for scrutiny is over, the Commission has to dispose of all appeals filed against the orders of rejection of nomination papers and pass necessary orders as quickly as possible before the time fixed for withdrawal of candidature. There is no provision in the law for appeal against acceptance of nomination.
33. Allocation of Symbols to the Candidates Nominated by Political Parties:
Allocation of symbols to the candidates nominated by the political parties is an important as well as a sensitive task for the Election Commission. Article 20 of the Representation of the People Order, 1972 provides that in case there are more contesting candidates than one in respect of any constituency, the Returning Officer is required to allocate, subject to any direction of the Election Commission, one of the prescribed symbols to each contesting candidate. In order that the candidates of one political party can use a common symbol in more than one constituency, the Election Commission invites the political parties to indicate their choice.
After hearing the representatives of the political parties at a meeting arranged by the Election Commission fixed for the purpose and considering the past practices, the Election Commission allocates the symbols to the political parties from the list of symbols as mentioned in rule 9(1) of the conduct of Election Rules, 1972. On this basis the candidates nominated by the political parties can use a common symbol. Following the decision of the Election Commission, the Returning Officer allocates the elections symbols to the candidates nominated by the Political parties. Other symbols as mentioned in rule 9(1) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, the Returning Officers allocate 1972 to the independent candidates having regard to any preference indicated by the candidates.
34. Procurement and distribution of Election Materials:
The task of printing and procurement, of election materials and their distribution to 25000 polling stations is a colossal one, entailing close attention of the Election Commission. It is made sure that these reach the Polling Stations at least the day before the polling so that polling can start on time at 8.00 hours in the morning.
35. Before Poll:
The Returning Officer provides each Presiding Officer with necessary ballot boxes of such material and the Commission approves design as. Not more than one ballot box is used at a time for the purpose of the poll at any polling booth.
At least half an hour before the time fixed for the commencement of the poll, the Presiding Officer is required to ensure that every ballot box to be used is empty, show the empty ballot box to the contesting candidates and their election agents and polling agents whoever may be present, close and seal the ballot box and place the ballot box so as to be conveniently accessible to the elector — visible to all present in the booth – officials and election or polling agents as may be present. Every elector will mark his ballot paper in secret before the same is folded and inserted in the ballot box by the elector himself.
The Presiding Officer regulates the number of electors to be admitted to the polling station at a time and excludes from the polling station all other persons except those connected with the polling.
The Presiding Officer is responsible for keeping order at the polling station so that an elector can exercise his free will to cast his vote at the polling station.
Where an elector presents himself at the polling station to vote, the Presiding Officer shall, after satisfying himself about his identity, issue to him a ballot paper after giving him a personal mark made with indelible ink on his thumb or any other finger of either hand, placing a mark on the electoral roll against the number and name of the elector to indicate that a ballot paper has been issued to him and recording the elector’s number and procuring signature of the elector on the counter foils of electoral roll and ballot paper respectively .
The elector, on receiving the ballot paper, shall forthwith proceed to the place reserved for marking the ballot paper, put the prescribed mark on the ballot paper at any place within the space containing the name and symbol of the contesting candidate for whom he wishes to vote and after he has so marked, fold the ballot paper and insert it in the ballot box. He has to do the whole thing at the quickest speed.
If a person representing himself to be an elector applies for a ballot paper when another person has already represented himself to be that elector and has voted under the name of the person so applying, he shall be entitled to receive a ballot paper which is called a tendered ballot paper. The Presiding Officer maintains separate accounts of tendered and challenged votes and also spoilt ballot papers as per law.
The polling time is generally 0800 -1600hrs local time. No person is allowed entry into the polling station enclosure after 1600hrs.
37. Count of Votes:
Immediately after the close of the poll with the casting of vote by the last voter of the day, the Presiding Officer, in the presence of such of the contesting candidates, election agents and polling agents as may be present, proceeds with the count of votes.
The Presiding Officer gives such of the contesting candidates, election agents and polling agents as may be present, reasonable facility of observing the count and gives them such information with respect thereto as can be given consistent with the orderly conduct of the count and the discharge of his duties in connection therewith.
Under the law no person other than the Presiding Officer, the Polling Officer, any other person on duty in connection with the poll, the contesting candidates, their election agents and polling agents are to be present at the count. However, authorized observers are allowed by the Election Commission to observe the count as a special dispensation. The Presiding Officer shall open the used ballot box or ballot boxes and count the entire lot of ballot papers taken out there from in presence of these persons.
The valid ballot papers cast in favor of each contesting candidate are preserved in separate packets. The Presiding Officer, immediately after the count, prepares a statement of the count and if so requested by any candidate or election agent or polling agent present, gives him a certified copy of the statement of the count and the ballot paper account.
The Presiding Officer puts in good order all records of the poll and sends them to the Returning officer immediately.
The Returning Officer is required to give the contesting candidates and their election agents a notice in writing of the day, time and place for the consolidation of the results and, in the presence of such of the contesting candidates and election agents as may be present, consolidate in the prescribed manner the results of the count furnished by the Presiding Officer, including therein, the postal ballots received by him before the time aforesaid.
Recount: The Returning Officer shall recount the valid ballot papers in respect of any polling station if the count by the Presiding Officer is challenged in writing by a contesting candidate or his election agent and the Returning Officer is satisfied about the reasonableness of the challenge or he is directed so to do by the Commission.
Where, after consolidation of the results or the count, it is found that there is equality of votes between two or more contesting candidates and the addition of one vote for one such candidate would entitle him to be declared elected, the Returning Officer shall forthwith draw a lot in respect of such candidates and the candidate on whom the lot falls shall be deemed to have received the highest number of votes entitling him to be declared elected. The lot shall be drawn in the presence of such of the contesting candidates and their election agents as may be present.
The Returning Officer shall, after obtaining the result of the count or of the draw of the lot declare by public notice the contesting candidate who has or is deemed to have received the highest number of votes to be elected. The Commission is required as per law to publish in the official gazette the name of the returned candidate.
The Returning Officer shall supply duly attested copies of the consolidated statement and the return of election to such of the candidates and their election agents as may desire to have them.
PARTY AGENTS AND ELECTION OBSERVERS:
There is provision in Bangladesh election laws for appointment of Election Agents and Polling Agents to act on behalf of candidates.
38. Election Agents:
The Election Agent of each candidate is entitled to visit the polling station and observe the poll. There is only one Election Agent for each candidate. The candidate must submit prior written notice to the Returning Officer containing particulars of his election agent.
39. Polling Agents:
Each candidate may appoint up to two polling agents to be present and to observe polling at each polling station. However, if the station has more than one booth, the candidates are entitled to have up to five polling agents for the station.
40. Election Observers:
While there is no specific provision of law allowing election monitoring or observation, the Election Commission has adopted a very liberal policy of entertaining local/International Observers to observe all elections conducted by the Commission.
The following facilitator guidelines have been drawn up by the Election Commission for both foreign and local observers willing to observe the elections.
41. Role of the Observers:
The observers may watch activities prior to polling day and observe actual polling including count of votes on the Election Day.
It may be noted that on the election day (a) the observers may only observe the proceedings in the polling station and shall not participate in activities like campaign, voting, counting etc.; (b) they will not interfere with any of the election activities going on at the polling station; (c) announcement of any result of voting of a center or constituency must not be done by the observers/observer groups; (d) the observers are to be completely neutral and non-partisan and are required to satisfy the Election Commission on this.
42. Foreign Observers:
(1) Foreign Observers (FO) who like to observe polling in Bangladesh may get in touch with concerned Bangladesh Embassy abroad.
(2) FOs on arrival in Bangladesh are advised to enlist their names with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to obtain necessary assistance from the assistance cell in the MOFA.
(3) During their stay in Bangladesh they (FO) are to remain fully responsible for their board, lodging and transport.
(4) FOs are issued appropriate accreditation cards. Local Observers:
(1) Such Observers shall not be supporters of any political party and shall not do anything covertly or overtly, which may compromise the quality of the election. Election Commission /Returning Officers reserve the right to cancel permission in cases of violation.
(2) Such Observers are to obtain clearance individually or in a group from the Election Commission/Returning Officers, as decided by the Election Commission.
(1) All observers are expected to inform the Election Commission of the district/locations they want to visit during polling, so that the District Administration may assist them during the visit. They may be required to obtain IDs from the Returning Officer after having furnished the names and other particulars of the observers to be fielded. The Returning Officer of any Electoral area will have the authority to deny issue of ID to any Observer group if the Returning Officer is not satisfied with their antecedents.
(2) While in the districts they are advised to act in accordance with the advice of the Returning Officer, Assistant Returning Officer, Presiding Officer, Polling Officer, as the case may be, and to refrain from doing things, which may disrupt poll proceedings.
(3) At any given time not more than one Observer (Local and Foreign) may enter inside a polling centre to avoid crowding and to facilitate the entry of others who may be waiting outside. A Presiding Officer/Asset. Presiding Officer may ask any observer to withdraw from the center at any time if he thinks that the observer’s presence may prejudice the voting in the centre.
(4) During their visit to the polling centers the observers are to abide by all the legal and administrative requirements of the Presiding Officer/Asstt. Presiding Officer.
(5) It is expected that a copy of the written report by the Observer Group will be given to the Election Commission soon after the conclusion of the poll.
44. Pre-poll Activities by Observer Groups:
Observer Groups are encouraged to carry out at their own cost voter education programme, TV programmes, rallies etc. to encourage people to participate in the poll. Such activities are to be completely non-partisan, unbiased and free from any religious, local or sectarian prejudice.
Journalists willing to observe the polling are also covered by these guidelines.
The participation of large number of observers – national and international in 1991 and June 1996 general elections improved transparency of the process of conducting the national election and added to their credibility and political acceptance.
CODE OF CONDUCT, PREVENTION OF PRE-POLL IRREGULARITIES AND ELECTION PETITIONS:
45. The code of conduct:
To avoid malpractice and manipulation of any kind in the election process to ensure free and fair election, the Election Commission has, under article 92B of the Representation of the People Order, 1972, formulated the Code of Conduct for the observance of political parties and the contesting candidates. The salient features of the Code of Conduct are the following:
a) Ban on subscription, donation etc. to any institution. Following the announcement of the election schedule till the day of polling, no candidate or any person on his behalf shall, openly or in secret, give any subscription or donation, or make promise for giving such subscription or donation, to any institution of their concerned constituency or to any other institution, nor shall commit to undertake any development project within the concerned constituency.
b) Use of Government accommodation like Circuit Houses, rest houses:
All parties and candidates shall be given equal rights for using government rest house and circuit house on the basis of the application first made and in accordance with the existing rules for using of same. But the government officers engaged in the conduct of the election shall get preference to use Government dak-bungalows, rest houses and circuit houses.
c) Election campaign:
All political parties and candidates shall be given equal rights with respect to election campaign. Meetings, processions and election campaigns of the opponent shall be disrupted.
d) Other activities include ban on use of any thoroughfare creating hindrances to the movement of the public, use of government media, government officers, and employees’ vehicles Or other state facilities, pasting of posters, leaflets or handbills over those of rival candidates,setting up camps on any road or places meant for use of the public, use of government rest houses, circuit house as a place of election campaign, use of printed paper imported from outside the country and use of multi-colored posters, use of number of microphones at a time, damage of land, building, movable or immovable properties of any citizen, wall writings, use motor cycle or any other mechanical transport or any other mechanical transport, carrying of fire arms or explosives within the premises of a polling station, illegal interference of government officers or local influential persons in the election process, procession of buses, trucks or any other vehicles or torch procession, any bitter and provocative statement and any such statement that may hurt the sentiments of the followers of any religion, crossing of limits of election expenses, influences of money, arms, muscle power or local influence.
e) Pre-poll irregularities:
Violation of any provision of these rules shall be considered as pre-poll irregularities. Pre-poll period, as defined in the rules, means the period commencing on the announcement of the election schedule and ending on the declaration of election results.
Prevention of pre-poll irregularities:
(a) Establishment of Electoral Enquiry Committee:
Any person or political party aggrieved by such violation may apply to the Electoral Enquiry Committee or Election Commission seeking redress. If the applications filed with the Election Commission is found by the Commission is tenable, it shall send the same to the concerned Electoral Enquiry Committee for investigation. In both cases, the Electoral Enquiry Committee, after making any investigation as per law shall submit its recommendation to the Commission.
(b) Formation of Electoral Enquiry Committee:
The Election Commission is empowered by article 91A of the Representation of the People Order, 1972 to establish a Committee to be known as Electoral Enquiry Committee with the judicial officers.
(c)Functions of the Electoral Enquiry Committee:
The Committee shall on the basis of information received or complaints made to it or on its own initiative, inquires into any matter or situation or any pre-poll irregularity including any situation or matter, which, in its opinion, may involve, by any person whosoever, as act or omission constituting intimidation, obstruction, coercion, or the publication of false information, or any other act or omission intended to or actually resulting in the obstruction of frustration of the preparation for, or the conduct of, free and fair election.
46. POST-POLL APPRAISAL:
Post-election appraisal provides an opportunity to learn from experience and take measures for improvement so that the goal of holding free and fair elections is better achieved.
The general elections of June’96 were organized by the newly reconstituted Election Commission in the context of a unique political experiment initiated by the 13 the amendment of the Constitution. The amendment provides for setting up a limited-purpose non-party caretaker government whose principal function is to provide assistance to the Election Commission to hold free and fair elections. The intense political environment of the time subjected every aspect of election management activity of the Election Commission to searching scrutiny and demanding standards of performance. As a result, the views expressed by political parties, voters, local and international poll observers, the press and the media on the quality of the election have been well documented.
These provided the Election Commission with a fair view of public assessment of the total operation and a sound basis for conducting in-house appraisal of different aspects of election management. The reactions reviewed by the Election Commission ranged from general appraisal of the Election Commission’s overall management to specific aspects of the election process. As a result, certain issues have been identified as needing further scrutiny and immediate action.
A number of by-elections held since then provided the Election Commission with the opportunity to introduce steps for operational improvement: like appointing a substantially large number of security personnel including female .Ansars (an auxiliary force) to supplement the existing arrangements for the maintenance of peace and order in and around the polling stations, and the appointment of senior govt. officers from outside the Election Commission Secretariat to work as election observers etc.
Secondly, to expedite disposal of election petitions (which until now are heard by District Judges along with their other judicial functions), Election Tribunals at all the 6 Divisional headquarters have been set up. These Courts are headed by judicial officers of the level of a ‘District Judge. Their sole and exclusive function is to try election petitions arising out of election disputes. 64 elections petitions were submitted by contestants in the June’96 elections, out of which 6 could be disposed of by the district courts so far. The constitution of exclusive tribunals to deal with elections petitions are expected to expedite the disposal of the pending cases.
Thirdly, the Commission has also taken up in right earnest the issue of improving the voter registration method. Views of political parties, election observers, human rights groups and eminent lawyers etc. have been sought for simplification of the existing registration form and dialogues have been initiated with different interest-groups. A broader review of voter registration in the light of practice in other countries is to be conducted by a subject-matter specialist. The Election Commission proposes to hold a series of workshops for exchange of opinion to help it evolve broader understanding and support for an improved voter registration system.
Fourthly, a working committee has been set up to look into the question of registration of expatriate Bangladeshis as voters. There is considerable public interest in the subject and the issue had received prominence during the last general elections.
Fifthly, the Election Commission has recently completed a review of its project for issue of voter ID cards. The law of the land requires the commission to issue such cards to each voter. The possibility of setting up a computerized data base is also under active consideration.
The Commission feels that there is need and scope for improvement of the election management system as a whole to reflect intense democratic aspirations of the people. There is also a recognition that a lot can be learnt from the experience of other countries. With that end in view, the Commission sent two study teams recently to some countries in south and Southeast Asia. The interaction will continue.
The Commission has recently constituted an Electoral Reforms Committee to look into possibilities of introducing further reforms. The terms are wide-ranging.
ELECTIONS ORGANIZED BY THE ELECTION COMMISSION JUST AFTER INDEPENDENCE OF BANGLADESH
Bangladesh achieved freedom on December 16, 1971 through a historic nine-month bloody war of liberation. Since independence, the people of the Republic have cast their votes directly in the following elections organized by the Bangladesh Election Commission:
a. The National Level Elections:
(i) 9 Parliamentary Elections held in 1973, 1979, 1986, 1988, 1991 and 1996
1996, 2001 and 2008
(ii) 3 Presidential Elections held in 1978, 1981 and 1986.
(iii) 3 Referendums held in 1977, 1985 and 1991 and
b. The Local Bodies Elections:
(i) Union Parishads (Union Councils) Elections in 1973, 1977, 1983-84, 1988. 1992 and
(ii) City Corporations Elections.
(iii) Pourashava or Municipality Elections held.
(v) Upazila Parishads Elections .
Voter awareness is an important factor to conduct an election in a free, fair and impartial manner. Willingness of the eligible persons to be registered as voters and their participation in the voting process are important ingredients for a sound democratic process. Right from enumeration work for registration of voters to the time of casting of votes at the Polling station, efforts are made to make people aware of their right of franchise and the importance of the exercise of this right. The Election Commission undertakes voter education programmes on democracy and various aspects of election through different news media, cinema slides, Radio and TV. The Mass Communication media, Department of Films and Publications also play significant roles to educate voters on their right of franchise and the Method of casting votes. The Election Commission also arranges through the Divisional and District authorities including Thana administration meetings/rallies with the electorate, Representatives of political parties, local elite and people of all walks of life for creating Awareness about democracy, the right and value of franchise. The public awareness campaign also includes a series of poster campaigns. Rallies and processions are organized to mobilize public support for free and fair elections. Local volunteers also organize special events like folk songs and drama. Non-government organizations are also encouraged by the Election Commission to conduct voter education programmers with the materials (posters, slides, films etc.) developed by them highlighting the importance of vote, the right of the voter, functions of the legislature, responsibilities of the elected representatives to the electorate etc.
The underlying idea of voter awareness programmers is to ensure large-scale participation of citizens in the choice of their representatives so that establishment of a representative and responsible government is ensured.
47. GENDERS AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS:
Nearly fifty percent of the total population in the country is women. It is, therefore, essential that they participate in large numbers in the electoral process.
In the electoral process, persons irrespective of gender status can contest the elections for general seat in the Parliament and also elections to local bodies Besides, there are reserved seats for women candidates in the Parliamentary as well as local level elections. But women participation in the electoral process has been found to be discouraged by a number of factors. Conservative women feel hesitant to meet male registration personnel and be photographed for Voter ID Card due to social and religious restrictions. Potential violence and absence of convenient transportation system, especially in the rural areas, also discourage women from participating in the electoral process.
For the convenience of women voters, electoral rolls are prepared separately for them and separate polling booths are set up in the polling centers. Women polling personnel are Generally appointed to help women voters go about meeting voting formalities in the polling station. Deployment of women security personnel and magistrates in and around the polling centers are preferred, so that women voters can cast their votes without intimidation, fear and hindrance. Extensive voter education programme for large-scale female participation is also conducted. All these steps have resulted in noticeably large turnout of women voters in large numbers.
What is needed to attain their extensive participation in exercising suffrage is to motivate them adequately through education while creating a reassuring environment in which female voters can come to the polling station and cast their vote without intimidation and fear. Whether the present system of reservation of 45 seats for women in the Parliament should be continued in its present form or some other suitable system should be introduced needs to be reviewed.
The Bangladesh Election Commission is putting in considerable efforts in making the existing election process effective and smooth. In a bid to cope with the changing circumstances and to familiarize the election officials, political activities and voters with the election process, the Election Commission has established one Electoral Training Institute In Dhaka. Since election process involves complex functions and procedures it is necessary that the election personnel take extensive training in performing their task properly and effectively. This applies also to voters and political activists so that they also share similar knowledge about election procedures. The objectives of such specialized training are:
– To create an efficient electoral management system.
– To provide training facilities for the polling personnel.
– To educate the polling agents and political activists.
– To make the voters aware about their civil, political and franchise rights.
So far training programmes have been conducted on the methods and procedures of voter registration, up-dating the electoral rolls of election, election offences, pre-poll irregularities, duties and responsibilities of the polling personnel, role^ of Judicial officials of Electoral Enquiry Committees, duties and responsibilities of law enforcing agencies, the requirement and the use of different forms, packets and materials at the polling station, conducting polls,franchise rights and role of the voters, role of observers, role of political activists in ensuring fair election, process of counting of votes, preparation of ballot paper account, statement of counts and consolidation of results etc.
The Election Commission arranges several training programmes for training of the polling personnel on election process centrally at the Electoral Training Institute in Dhaka as well as at Divisional, District and Thana head quarters … Separate handbooks and manuals on election process for the guidance of the Returning Officers, Presiding and Assistant Presiding Officers, Polling Officers etc. are also prepared and distributed under the direction of the Election Commission.
Extensive use of the mass media including Radio & TV has been made in relaying voter education message through radio spots, documentaries, and short films etc.
The Election Commission Secretariat already houses several stand-alone PCs. Several Projects are underway to equip the secretariat with modern powerful computers which will be connected to the computers located in all districts of Bangladesh. Upon successful completion of such countrywide network, the Election Commission Secretariat will be able to train all district election personnel through this network. The Electoral Training Institute which already uses some of its computers for preparing training materials will be able to send training manuals electronically to all district office computers.
Functioning Election Commission (India):
(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all election s to parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of election s to the offices of president and Vice- president held under this Constitution l3*** shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission)
(2) The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that the President makes behalf by parliament.
(3) When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.
(4) Before each general election to the House of the people and to the Legislative Assembly of each State, and before the first general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council of each State having such Council, the President may also appoint after consultation with the Election Commission such Regional Commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the Election Commission in the performance of the functions conferred on the Commission by clause (1).
(5) The President, or the Governor l6*** of a state, shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to the Election Commission or to a REgional Commissioner such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the Election Commission by clause (1).
48. Electoral Reforms:
1. Necessity of electoral reforms:-
The necessity of electoral reforms in Bangladesh arises because of the following consideration:
(a) Our experience since independence has shown that the present system has failed to deliver goods. They system has been negative and disruptive in character. We should have a system which should be positive and integrative in character, and which should aid in the process of the building up of a strong and effective body politic.
(b) The present system is not in conformity with the political theory of democracy itself with the result that it produces a perverted from of democracy. We should have a system, which should aid the process of genuine democracy.
(c) The present system is based on secular thought. Every political system must necessarily have an electoral mechanism of its own.
2. Essential points for electoral reforms:-
In working out any scheme of electoral reforms, the followings essential pre-requisites have to be kept in view:
(a) We should not have a system hereunder the electorate come to life only on the Election Day and thereafter become dormant; the electorate should remain active and alive all the time.
(b) We should have a system where under the nation should be poised and every-ready for elections and elections could be held at a moment’s notice.
(c) We should have a system; hereunder elections do not involve any additional financial burden.
(d) we should have a system which is simple to work, and is free from technicalities beyond the comprehension of the common man.
(e) We should a system, which should be immune to such evils as personation, corrupt practices and other illegalities.
(f) We should have a system where under election is a self-propelling process, and no interference of any outside agency is called for.
(h) We should a system, which does not engender any heat or give rise to any election dispute.
(i) We should have a system whereunder the returned candidate has to maintain contract with the electorate throughout his term of office.
(j) We should have a system where the aspects that are essential to every democratic election
or the points that are crucial to ensuring public confidence in an election are prevalent. Some
of these universally accepted and respected aspects or points are:
(i) a level playing field,
(ii) a peaceful environment,
(iii) a trusted Election Commission,
(iv) an assurance that all eligible voters can cast their ballots freely,
(v) an honest and impartial voting, counting and tabulation process.
Functioning Election Commission of India:
(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for. and the conduct of, all elections to parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of president and Vice-president held under this Constitution 46*** shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission)[ The words ” including the appoinment of election tribunals for the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with elections to parliament and to the Legislatures of States” omitted by the Constitution( Nineteenth Amendment) Act, 1966,
(2) The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by parliament be made by the president.
(3) When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.
49. Political (Electoral) Reforms Needed:
Corruption will be one day. However, one may try to conceal it; and the public can as it is its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinise their conduct, as it likes.
Mahatma Gandhi in Young India, on 7 November 1925
I heard Swami Swami Ramananthanand of the Ramakrishnoa Mission, Hyderabad, perhaps the greatest living philosopher saint in India, addressing Rotarians in Cuttack, Orissa, about fifteen years ago. He was heard with rapt attention in pindrop silence. He said that in India we have neither a food crisis nor a power crisis, nor an economic crisis, but only a single crisis, a crisis of’character’. Years later on 16 May 1998 while inaugurating a seminar on ‘Towards Good Governance’ organized by the Voters Forum Foundation of India at New Delhi, the swami said, ‘what India urgently requires today is a regeneration process where power would be used for the people’s welfare. This can happen only when the intellect is made to shine better through spiritual development. Referring to the concept ‘rajarsi’ in the Bhagwad Gita, the swami said:
A collector a clerk, a police constable, a police constable, a schoolteacher and every other type of social functionary, all handle some power or the other and even a little spiritual growth will make them use that power to serve the people better. This is the meaning of combination of’raja’ and “Risk” in one – sagely within and kingly without.
He maintained that all corruption comes from indulging the senses and that this had degenerated over the past fifty years. The attitude of the people was different in 1947, he said, suggesting that the old values can still be regained by inculcating spiritual education in modern educational system without linking it to any particular religion. He observed people who wield power must become great friends of the people. The Gita deals with a work-centred philosophy as it deals with ‘man at work’. The swami made an impassioned appeal to the people to imbibe the qualities renunciation and service, which, according to Swami Vivekananda, were India’s national ideals.
The issue of election funding which even countries like the United States are concerned about. Suggestions like those state funding of elections and lifting the ban on donations to political parties need urgent consideration. The recent raising of the ceiling on election expenses for the Lok Sabha to fiffteen lakhs has been a step in the right direction, and this needs to be further rationalized.
However, no degree of electoral reforms will be able to cleanse our political life unless there are stringent laws to prevent persons known to be corrupt, mafia, and other antisocial elements from entering Parliament and the legislatures, and even panchayat bodies. The present Representation of the People’s Act of 1951, Sec. 8(1) & (2) has proved to be inadequate for this purpose. Under this section, a person stands disqualified from seeking election if he has been convicted in a criminal case. The election commission has clarified, and rightly so that the qualification will prevail even if an appeal against the conviction of the person is pending in a higher court. The Election Commission has also given figures relating to the large number of legislators and MPs who are facing criminal charges such as those of murder, rape, and other such heinous offences. Then there are ‘history sheeters’. The commission has rightly said that ‘ No law breakers sshould be law makers’. The problem is how we are to distinguish ‘hardended’ or real criminals from those facing false and motivated criminal charges brought against them by the parties in power for political reasons. There are also instances of politicians facing criminal charges for acts arising out of participation in political agitations.
In the proposals announced by the Election Commission in July 1998, it has been suggested that persons charge sheeted for offences punishable with imprisonment for five or more years should be disqualified from contesting. This may not, however, provide sufficient safeguards against false prosecutions or prosecutions arising out of legitimate political agitations. This is an area that needs to be thoroughly examined by an expert body like the law commission. One safeguard could be of a provision that disqualification will result only if a competent court of law has taken cognizance of the offences on the basis of prima facie evidence. Also, the law can clearly define and set apart offences arising out of political agitations, and may include only heinous crimes like murder, rape, etc., or charges of corruption in which cognizance by the court has been taken on the basis of prima facie evidence. Also some of the police reforms that are under the active consideration of the Supreme Court once implemented may contribute substantially in ensuring fair and honest investigation of criminal cases. This would be a very effective safeguard against motivated and false cases being foisted on political opponents by the ruling party or parties.
And what about the Election Commission? They also need to do quite a lot of introspection. They failed, at least in bihar, to keep their assurance of a fair poll during the Lock Sabha elections in 1998. After retirement from police service in December 1995, I joined the Samata Party under the leadership of George Fernandes in October 1996. From the very outset he made it clear that I should select a constituency and seek election to the Lok Sabha. I decided to contest from my home – constituency Madhepura in Bihar from where two giants, Laloo Prasad Yadav, president, RJD, and sitting MP Sharad Yadav, president, Jananta Dal, also filed nomination papers. Notwithstanding the contituency being a known stronghold of the Jananta/ RJD, I thought I could provide a third alternative. What I saw, however, was anything but a fair election. The Election Commission declared it a ‘super sensitive’ constituency, where every booth was to be guarded by central armed police. In actuality there were any number of polling booths without even a single policeman. In full view of central observers, there was open loot and rigging. A day before the poll, some prominent persons, in four vehicles, with firearms, moved from one selected village to another, terrorizing the public and asking them to vote in favour of a particular candidate. Not leaving the matter to chance, they followed it up the next day with rigging and booth capturing. All this was after 1 had personally rung the Election Commission in New Delhi, the Union home secretary, the Central observer, the state home secretary, and all concerned from Madhepura during the night preceding the polling day, seeking intervention to prevent booth capturing. The Union home secretary took same steps, but with hardly any results. Unless there is presidential rule in states prior to polling, which the Election Commission has suggested recently, there is nothing much that the Home Ministry can do.
1. Election Commission is heavily dependant on the executive wing of the Government in various ways, so that it cannot run properly and through maintaining the excepted neutrality.
2. The existing reality the Election Commission is perfect manifestation of the conflict between the theory and practice.
3. And this reality has led this Commission to do perform its activities in a brazen manner.
4. Corruption, mismanagement, lack of accountability and other factors make the Election Commissioner effective.
1. The Election Commission is to be composed of those experts whose are renowned in their respective fields with their utmost honesty, sincerity. The Election Commission may free, fair for their works. If they are so, they will be sincere to the nation.
2. The ensuring kind of relations between the Election Commission and the prime Minister’s office should be changed in order to avoid any kind of influence of the executive wing or political party and the election Commission should be accountable only to the Parliament in Bangladesh.
3. A corrupt person, who is convicted and sentenced for minimum six (6) months for his corruption, cannot participate up to (5) years in any from election from the date of his conviction, and within this period he cannot hold any high post of office bearer of any political group, although he can only be inhibited with a political party and political activities.
4. The recruitments process should be done through a selection body approved by the Hon’ble President for the Country. The body may propose the names for recruitment for Constitutional post like Election Commission/ Chief Election Commissioner.
5. There should not be any provision to hold the two separate posts simultaneously by any Election Commissioner.
6. The Election Commission must be reformed as autonomous and effective. Article 1 18 of the Constitution gives mandate for holding free, fair and impartial elections, and enforcing all electoral laws for this purpose. Election Commission must be separated and independent from the prime Minister’s office. If the Election Commission is attached with Prime Minister’s office, it cannot work independently. Prime Minister’s office should not make any appointment to the Election Commission.
7. There should be spontaneous participation of the people of Bangladesh in election. Candidate must campaign without their muscle power. And Election Commission must ensure that.
8. Election Commission must check that the wealthy businessman does not carry out their election campaign in a prohibited manner. Black money holders should not participate in election to influence the voters with their black money flow.
9. Election Commission must have power; there must be check & balance as well.
10. Election Commission should be given power that they can cancel the candidature of a candidate if he/she adopt any election unfair by any means according to the election rules
At the end of my paper I will conclude by giving some massages to those who do not yet received or perceived it by any means what so ever. The massage is:
The elections should be organized and conducted by an agency, which is impartial, and independent; fully skilled in the task entrusted to it, and immune to any political pressure or influence. For the conduct of elections it is necessary that the law under which elections are held should be comprehensive and foolproof and should provide a framework where under free and fair elections can be held, and the changes of the elections being vitiated by corrupt. The election should be contested in a sportsmanlike spirit within the discipline of the election law.
On the basis of discussion in the paper we can say that this paper has tried to focus the gaps odds and errors remaining at Election Commission regarding the real and perfect independence with hopes and aspirations of the common people. So there should be a whole approves to remove the existing knots of the Election Commission.
1. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
2. Public Elections law and practice
………. Syed Lutfor Rahman Soiloor;
3. Does India need a New Constitution?
………..B.L. Hansaria; Eastern Law House.
4. The politics of Crime and Corruption
………..N. K. Singh: Harper Collins publishers India.
5. Black Law Dictionary.
6 The constitution of Bangladesh.
————– A.K.M. Shamsul Huda
7. Condtitutional Laws of Bangladesh
————– Mahamudul Islam
9. The Daily Star.
10.41 DLR (AD) 68; Shah Alam v Mujibul Haq
11. AIR 1978 SC 851; Mohinder Singh v Chief Election Commissioner
12. 2001 BLD (AD) 10 Jatia Party V Election Commission
13. AIR 1996 SC 1810; Election Commission v. Dr. Subramanian
14. 45 DLR (AD) 53; Altaf Hossain v. Abul Kashem
15. 50 DLR636; Abdul Quader Farazi v. Chief Election Commissioner
16.45 DLR 255 Afzal Hossain v. Chief Election Commissioner
17. 43 DLR 701 Afzal Hossain v. Chief Election Commissioner & voters
18. Theory of practice of Bangladesh Constitution
……Dr. Ali Ahmed
19. Constitutional Law of Bangladesh
20. Constitution of India Central Law Agency