Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal has said the Election Commission will not comment on the polls-time government for the next national election.
"We have taken the oath to conduct the election in accordance with the law and the constitution," he said, adding, "The issue of polls-time government is a matter of political leadership. After talks, they [political leaders] will decide about it on their own."
The CEC made the remarks Wednesday (6 April) after a dialogue with editors and senior journalists of various national dailies at the Election Building in Dhaka's Agargaon. The talk was participated by 23 senior journalists out of 34 invited, and presided over by the CEC. Earlier, the EC held two rounds of dialogue with civil society members.
Kazi Habibul Awal said, "The dialogue is being held to hear the opinions and to take note about the potential challenges. If we can identify the issues that have been emphasised in the dialogue, we will be able to move forward by including the topics in our action plan."
Asked if a fair national election would be possible, the CEC said, "It is too early to comment on that. We will try our best for a participatory and fair election. We have listened to the electoral issues in the dialogue."
Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, editor of the Daily Observer, said the EC would be able to gain more confidence through its actions than it would gain people's confidence through dialogues. The EC needs to create a congenial environment in which all parties can participate.
Jugantor Editor Saiful Alam said, "It is important to gain the confidence of the people and ensure spontaneous participation. After all the work, if the people do not come to vote, the election will be controversial. The vote is the people's stake. When their vote is given by someone else, the voters get annoyed and hurt. Political, muscle or financial power should not keep the EC down."
The Business Standard Editor Inam Ahmed said, "We are talking about a credible election where the role of the media is very important. No matter how much you say fair elections have taken place, what is coming in the media is important."
He said the media is chained up by different laws, and asked whether those laws could be relaxed for journalists during the polls.
Addressing the Election Commission, the TBS editor said, "You have taken an oath to fulfil certain responsibilities and that is very transparent. Whatever you say before the media, your credibility will be revealed – whether you talk rationally or irrationally."
New Age Editor Nurul Kabir said people's confidence in the election has waned. The main responsibility of the EC is to restore that confidence as the commission has nothing to lose. Instead, the EC in the next national election has the scope to retrieve people's respect and love. Holding a fair election is possible since the executive branch will work under the EC during the polls.
Ittefaq Editor Tasmima Hossain commented that the entire electoral system has collapsed. She said the next election will determine the fate of the country. However, she said she does not expect the EC to be able to hold a cent percent fair election. She suggested holding the polls in divisions on separate days.
Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta said the next Cumilla election will be an acid test for this EC.
Farida Yasmin, president of the Jatiya Press Club, said participation of BNP in the next parliamentary election must be ensured. She said there will be various political pressures and if those can be dealt with properly, then a good election is possible.
"Political leaders have stopped meeting face-to-face. Elections are challenging in such a situation," she said.
Senior journalist Abu Saeed Khan said electronic voting machines (EVM) can be dropped in the next election to ensure participation. Because many parties do not want to vote in EVM.
Prothom Alo Joint Editor Sohrab Hasan said the last three national elections should be observed and lessons should be learned. The previous EC has to take a bold role after coming out of loyalty to the government and administration.
He said, "If the returning officers are picked from the EC staff, then administrative and other interference will be reduced."