Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Local Government polls a challenge for EC

NIRMAL L. GOMES

RECENTLY THE Election Commission (EC) announced that local government polls to four city corporations and nine municipalities will be held on August 4. The caretaker government will relax controversial emergency powers rules (EPR) in respective areas allowing campaign processions and rallies.

In the mean time the nation’s largest political party Bangladesh Nationalists Party (BNP) have rejected the schedule for local-body elections, while Awami League (AL) termed it a 'conspiratorial and farcical move.” However, the other parties like Jatiya Party (Ershad) welcomed the decision to hold local government polls before the parliamentary elections, and also urged the government to declare the schedule for upazila elections too. It looks like that upcoming local government election has been predicted to be controversial by the political parties and civil society.

However, the caretaker government’s Chief Adviser (CA) and EC both are determined to hold local government polls, prior to general election as the CA announced a time-frame in his speech. Well there is a question to the national political parties - what do they want? What is in their mind? It is not wise for the political leaders to invite political chaos with an issue that nation will return prior to 1/11. It could be ascertained that the parties and concerned citizens do not want to go back to the 1/11. All parties and individuals strongly urge and commit to sustainability of democracy. It does not mean that the caretaker government and EC will hold elections that have been practiced for thirty six years. The CA and EC vow to hold the elections fair, neutral, and accepted to all. The political leaders often demand to hold the general election at the soonest and urge the government to handover power to the elected representatives. Of course, it must be in a democratic process, What kind of election the political parties and general citizens desire, that has to be spelled out.

Everyone has seen that the EC along with CA has been working towards to holding the polls as planned. It is a shame that till today the political parties have failed gather at a common platform to make a common decision for the sake of the nation’s future socio-economic and political issues. It looks like that the government gets very slow cooperation and positive response from the political parties and individuals that the caretaker government expected. Ultimately the result slows down the process of government activities. Negative attitudes of the political parities and individuals seems to be very unpleasant. However, the good and positive thing is that the government determines to hand over power to the elected representatives sooner or later.

Despite the political parties are against the holding of upazila election before parliamentary polls. But the upazila election is likely to be held before the national elections. Mixed opinions published in the various newspapers about the ensuing local government election. "The people want local-body elections before the parliamentary elections. But the political parties are saying it will hamper the roadmap on the parliamentary elections," indeed, “the Adviser said political parties in public are against the holding of local elections, but "whether there is any secret in their mind I don't know." Again the EC stressed that the "local government polls before the national elections would not hamper the roadmap.”

It seems that the EC could face challenges to hold the local government polls, but the great thing would be an experiment for the EC as the government and EC want to hold fair, neutral, accepted polls without any muscle power and black money. Experience of polling the local government election can be used in the general election. No doubt that the EC prepared and announced a high standard election gazette for local government elections. Now nation must wait and see--how strictly the rules are implemented and act before and after election as it has designed and announced.

Bangladesh has the dysfunctional democratic system for last thirty six years. The hundreds of rules of the previous governments and very few rules where properly implemented and acted by the government, law and enforcement, and citizens. The rules have been misused many a times and that’s result of the 1/11. General citizens believe that EC along with the caretaker government will be able to poll a model local government election that this experience can reinforce EC to held a better general election in December 2008 as it has announced the Chief Adviser. #

Nirmal L. Gomes is a freelance journalist, international scholar and a graduate (MA) student in Education specialising in Administration, Curriculum, Foundation, & Policy Studies in the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.
Email: Nirmalgomes@aol.com , Gomes@cua.edu