EC plans RPO changes assuming polls after JS dissolutionTaib Ahmed
The Election Commission has drafted proposals for amending the Representation of the People Order 1972 on the presumption that ‘the authorities’ would dissolve parliament before the next parliamentary polls.
After the 15th amendment to the constitution, a general election of the members of parliament shall be held inside 90 days preceding such dissolution by reason of expiration of the five-year term of parliament.
But, as stipulated by the Article 123 (b), in the case of dissolution otherwise than by reason of expiration of the term, the elections shall be held inside 90 days after such dissolution.
But the EC in the draft RPO, which it has almost finalised, has made a proposal to bring changes to Article 26 of the RPO in such a manner as if the election would be held after dissolution of parliament.
The EC has proposed to include a clause reading, ‘from the dissolution of parliament and until the formation of a new one, the government shall not take any decision relating to appointment, transfer and posting of officials of all ministries and of offices subordinate thereto without… consultation with the commission.’
The clause has been proposed to be incorporated in the RPO ostensibly to ensure the commission’s authority over executive bodies during election time suggesting that the polls would be held after the dissolution of parliament.
Asked about the rationale for including such a clause if the election was held before the dissolution of parliament as stipulated by the constitution, election commissioner Abdul Mobarak, who was tasked to finalise the draft, said, ‘It is a good argument.’
But he did not give further details and just said, ‘Let us see what happens. Allah is there …’
In reply to another query, the election commissioner quoted Article 123 (b) of the constitution and said the polls could be held after the dissolution of parliament if the ‘authority’ dissolved parliament before the expiry of its term.
A number of officials of the EC said the commission was preparing for the next polls assuming that the next parliamentary polls would be held after the dissolution of parliament.
The officials cited a statement of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, in which she said, ‘Parliament might be dissolved if necessary’. She had also said, ‘The announcement for the next polls would come in the month of October.’
And that is why, an official added, the commission paid no heed to the issue of providing a level-playing field for all the contestants in parliamentary polls while bringing changes to the RPO as the 15th amendment, which abolished the non-party caretaker government system, allows sitting lawmakers to contest polls enjoying all the privileges as an MP.
Most of the political parties view Article 123 after the 15th amendment to the Constitution as an obstacle to free, fair and acceptable polls as it allows a sitting lawmakers to avail of the privileges which other contestants would not
Besides, the commission has proposed to include a provision for using electronic voting machines apart from ballots in the parliamentary polls although the commission has already said it would not introduce the system in the next polls.
The commission has proposed to include a clause reading, ‘Notwithstanding anything contained in this order or the rules made thereunder, the casting and recording of votes by voting machines in such a manner as may be prescribed, may be adopted in such constituency or constituencies or any polling station of a constituency as the commission may, having regard to the circumstances of each case, specify’ in the Article 26 of the RPO.
Abdul Mobarak said the draft of proposals for amending the RPO would soon be sent to the law ministry.
The election commissioner said the draft amendments to the RPO would seek to re-designate the EC chairman as the chief election commissioner and the EC members as election commissioners.
He said the draft amendment stipulated a fine of maximum Tk one lakh and a minimum Tk 50 thousand for misconduct and election offences by both candidates and election officials.
The Articles 73 to 86 of the RPO 1972 stipulate imprisonment for terms ranging from two to seven years with fine without mentioning its amount.
The draft also proposed to hike the ceiling of election expenditure of a single candidate from Tk 15 lakh to Tk 25 lakh.
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