Vol. 5 Num 1012 Fri. April 06, 2007  
Front Page

No poll in next 18 months
CEC says voter list, national ID cards to be prepared during this time

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday said the Election Commission (EC) will not think about holding any elections either to parliament or local government bodies in next one and a half years.

"During this time, we will simultaneously prepare a voter list with photographs and national identity cards. Once the massive task is done, we will think about holding elections. But now we cannot give any timeline when the elections are likely to be held," the CEC told a press briefing.

When the electoral roll is prepared, there would be a lot of other tasks to be done. The government will have to create a congenial atmosphere for elections, he said.

"So, we cannot say that parliamentary elections will be held just after 18 months. We will be ready for elections after 18 months if everything goes smoothly."

Facing a volley of questions about a tentative timeframe for holding the stalled ninth parliamentary elections, which was earlier scheduled for January 22, the CEC said it is not possible now to specify any timeline for holding the ninth parliamentary polls.

He also disclosed a set of proposals for electoral reforms at the briefing.

"There are now so many uncertainties before us about preparation of voter list correctly. After next six to nine months, we can give a clear picture about the planned task. And now I do not dare to speak about any timeline for elections," said Shamsul Huda, who was appointed CEC on February 4 following resignation of his controversial predecessor MA Aziz.

In reply to a question, he said, "There is no scope to expedite our plan. This is the minimum time (18 months) subject to fulfilment of several conditions. "

In defence of the EC plan, the CEC said they are working in the interest of the nation and the country. "We joined our posts not to hold parliamentary election as was usually held. And it needs resolution of matters concerning the arrested corrupt. There will be no point in holding election if they come back in the polls process."

He believes that political parties will not oppose the EC plan that is aimed at holding a free, fair and meaningful election, he said when asked if political parties will wait for another 18 months for election as some of them are already demanding a timeframe for election.

According to the EC plan, six consultants including three from abroad will start working at the EC Secretariat to prepare a project document for a voter list with photographs, national identity cards and introduction of e-governance system in next two months. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will fund preparing the project document. Counting of 18 months will begin from the day the consultants start work, the CEC said.

The EC will complete other preparatory work like appointment of enumerators, their training and procurement of materials within next six months. Then the task of implementing the project will begin and it will take 12 months. "Bangladesh army will help implement the project," he said.

Shamsul Huda went on, "We estimated that at least 8,000 computers and the same number of printers, and digital cameras will have to be procured for the massive task."

Sources pointed out that as the EC does not plan to hold any elections within one and a half years, elections to local government bodies also will not be held in time.

Tenure of the eighth parliament expired on October 27 last year and ninth parliamentary elections were scheduled for January 22 this year. But due to a volatile political situation centring the scheduled election, the president proclaimed the state of emergency on January 11, suspending the polls.

Over 4,000 union parishads' tenure will expire between January and March next year. As per laws, elections to these local government bodies should be held within 180 days before the expiry of their tenure.

Similarly, elections to the five city corporations will also not be held in time. Tenure of three city corporations---Dhaka, Rajshahi and Khulna -- will expire next month. According to laws, elections to the three city corporations are to be held within 180 days before expiry of their tenure. Tenure of the two other city corporations--Barisal and Sylhet -- will expire between November and December this year.

Tenure of most of the municipalities will however expire in May 2009.

Officials at the EC Secretariat said tenure of a number of municipalities and union parishads has already expired but the EC cannot hold elections to these bodies due to court orders suspending all sorts of elections.

The CEC however made it clear that no elections will be held in next 18 months.

Replying to a query, the CEC said he came to know from an adviser's speech that the government is thinking about holding long due elections to upazila parishads.

"Parliamentary elections and local government poll can be held at the same time ...However we will think about it once electoral roll is prepared," he said.

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