Vol. 5 Num 351 Wed. May 25, 2005  
Front Page

New CEC also wants free secretariat
Believes opposition will accept him

New Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) MA Aziz yesterday said he favours an independent Election Commission (EC) secretariat but has not looked into his predecessor's proposals about reforms to the EC and electoral rules.

Immediate past CEC MA Syed proposed an independent EC secretariat free from government influence if elections are to be free and fair.

"I do not know how far the government controls or influences the Election Commission secretariat," Aziz told journalists replying to a query on reported influence of the government on the EC secretariat. "But I believe it should be independent," the CEC continued.

About reforms, Aziz said reforms are a must to make the rules up-to-date. "Reform is an ongoing process. There are no bindings that rules cannot be amended," he said.

The new CEC also spoke about the strong opposition criticism for his unilateral appointment and said he believes the opposition parties will eventually accept him.

The main opposition Awami League (AL) rejected his appointment, terming it an effort to politicise the Election Commission. Other opposition parties expressed their shock and frustration, and slammed the government for making the "unilateral appointment" without consulting them.

The new CEC however said he was appointed High Court judge during the caretaker government in 1996 and confirmed by the Awami League government. There was no objection against him.

He said those who have rejected his appointment are entitled to their own opinion and it is their political right to oppose the appointment.

"I do not think there should be any agitation or wrong impression aligning me that I am biased to any political party. I am everybody's man…I am nobody's man," Aziz told the journalists yesterday at his office.

He said lawyers protested the appointment of the then CEC when he had gone to the Supreme Court premises to take oath. But nobody demonstrated against his appointment on Monday when he went to take oath, the CEC said.

"I will not go beyond the dictates of the constitution, my conscience and (my duty towards) welfare of the country," the CEC said in a desperate bid to pacify the opposition.

Referring to the participation of the main opposition Awami League in the Narsingdi-1 by-elections slated for June 22, which will be his first test, Aziz said, "I am very happy to know that the main opposition party will join the by-election. It shows that they have accepted me."

He said the EC would try its best to see that the elections are free and fair. "(My) shoulders are very small, but the burden is huge," the CEC said about his duties.

CEC Aziz yesterday entered his office at 9:00am and three election commissioners Shafiur Rahman, M Munsef Ali and AK Mohammad Ali called on him immediately afterwards. Officials at the EC secretariat called on him in the afternoon.

The CEC said he received a few phone calls from his former colleagues and friends to congratulate him. But no political leaders rang him up to congratulate him, he added.