Vol. 5 Num 400 Tue. July 12, 2005  

HC directive violated
EC failing the test
The upcoming by-election in Sunamganj-3 was an opportunity for the Election Commission (EC) to demonstrate to a skeptical public that fears of politicisation and manipulation of the election process were unfounded, and that the EC was in a good position to hold fair and free general elections, which are due within the next 18 months.

The recent HC order directing the EC to require candidates to submit personal information about education, wealth, criminal records, if any, with their filings has not been complied with as far as the approaching by-poll in Sunamganj goes.

We are at a loss to understand why such an obviously desirable measure reflecting a long-felt public demand should remain unimplemented at the first opportunity.

Indeed, the EC's disregard for a HC order may even be tantamount to contempt and is certainly a breach of the public trust. The EC has let down the voters and owes them an explanation.

The directive is simple enough to enforce. The EC need merely demand the requisite information from the candidates before approving their candidacies. If the information provided by a candidate is either incomplete or inadequate, then the election order of 1973 empowers the RO to cancel his or her nomination paper.

However, despite the fact that the information submitted by all nine candidates does not meet the criteria set forth by the HC, not one nomination paper has been cancelled. Not only that, but the EC has taken no steps to disseminate the information to the voters as per the HC order, which is the main point.

The EC must show that it is an independent and strong body. If it cannot, people will assume that it is has no power and that elections held under its auspices will not be credible.

Due to its inaction, the EC has damaged its own credibility. With the general election around the corner this is the last thing we need. The EC must take every opportunity to show to the people that it is capable of administering a fair election that it is free of political interference. Right to information about candidates is an integral part of the right to franchise.