In a significant statement directed towards the government, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal recently conveyed his concerns regarding the apprehension of potential polling agents after they provide their information to the Election Commission. He issued a stern warning: any allegation of vote rigging within a polling booth would prompt the suspension of balloting in the respective center.
This declaration was made during a meeting with election candidates at the Returning Officer’s Auditorium in Barishal on Saturday (23 December).
“We want to ensure a free, fair, and neutral election and won’t spare anyone if they try to obstruct it,”-CEC said.
Emphasizing the commitment to ensuring a free, fair, and unbiased election, the CEC conveyed a strong message that anyone attempting to obstruct this process would face consequences. He urged candidates to adhere strictly to the electoral code of conduct and discouraged any belief that irregularities must occur during the voting process.
“Follow the electoral code sternly and come out of the trust that irregularities must be done in the voting field,” he said at the Returning Officer’s office in Barishal.
In a separate meeting, Election Commissioner Anisur Rahman issued a stern warning, stating that immediate action would be taken against distributing any leaflets aimed at dissuading voters from attending polling stations.
Rahman emphasized, “Some voters may be discouraged from participating, but nobody has the authority to obstruct the voting process. Those impeding others from casting their votes will face severe consequences.”
Asserting the Election Commission’s stance on maintaining order, Rahman mentioned, “We have conveyed clear directives to all law enforcement officials and magistrates to ensure an undisrupted voting environment.”
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal also emphasized the need for trust in the electoral system. “Voters should be given an opportunity to exercise their right to vote without interference. Even a single case of vote rigging could prompt the immediate suspension of voting in that center,” he asserted. He also mentioned that over the past 50-60 years of electoral history, there have been unexpected occurrences during campaigns. This time, the Election Commission has firmly instructed the administration to rigorously manage these matters. Simultaneously, candidates are urged to maintain a peaceful election atmosphere through mutual consensus.
Vital Role of Polling Agents
CEC Awal emphasized that without polling agents, an election cannot be considered valid. He highlighted the importance of strong candidates supporting their polling agents to ensure a fair and just electoral process.
CEC Awal expressed concern about the safety of polling agents, emphasizing the importance of not letting them down, as they could face arrest or even violence from powerful authorities for various reasons. He mentioned that the identities of polling agents are typically kept secret until the morning of the polling day to ensure their safety.
On January 7, 2023, the pinnacle of the electoral process will unfold as millions of Bangladeshi citizens exercise their voting rights. The resulting outcome will shape the composition of the parliament, holding significant sway over the country’s policies and governance.
Code of conduct
CEC Awal encouraged candidates to adhere strictly to the electoral code of conduct. Speaking at a meeting with election candidates at the Returning Officer’s auditorium in Barisal, he emphasized the need to refrain from any notion of irregularities during voting. The Chief Election Commissioner asserted, “Our aim is to guarantee a free, fair, and impartial election, and we won’t tolerate any attempts to impede it.”
Key highlights of this Code entail a prohibition on financial contributions to institutions, ensuring fair and unbiased use of government accommodations, and guaranteeing equal rights for all participating parties throughout the election campaign. Furthermore, it includes stringent regulations addressing various aspects, such as impeding public movement, misuse of governmental resources, interference with the election procedures, and exceeding set limits on election expenses.
In preparation for the upcoming elections, the Election Commission (EC) has taken extensive measures to maintain law and order. Notably, 422 patrol teams of the elite force have been deployed nationwide, aiming to uphold peace and prevent potential incidents during the pre-election period.
A distinctive aspect of this operation is its focus on securing public transportation. The specialized RAB force is diligently safeguarding buses and cargo-carrying vehicles along affected routes, ensuring essential services continue smoothly while prioritizing citizens’ daily lives.
Further strengthening security, 232 BGB platoons have been strategically positioned across the country, as highlighted by the recent statement from the BGB headquarters. Concurrently, the police have initiated a three-week-long special drive nationwide to curb political violence, retrieve illegal items, and apprehend criminals.
With the police issuing a directive for similar special drives from December 9 to 31, concerns about potential disruptions to the electoral process have led to intensified security measures. Additionally, the Bangladesh Army is anticipated to be deployed on December 29 to reinforce security before, during, and after the 12th parliamentary elections. These combined efforts underscore a proactive approach to ensure a secure and orderly electoral environment. There is pressure to conduct the upcoming elections while maintaining international standards. The main task of the government and the EC is to create an environment of trust and it must be visible. As the Commission has been given so much dignity, power, and privilege to carry out the difficult task of conducting free and fair elections, they have to deliver finally what they are expected to deliver at this crucial juncture of democracy in this country.