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Friday, September 26, 2008
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Strict Code Of Conduct Set To Take Effect

No campaign allowed before November 27

JS, upazila polls schedule in first week of Nov

The new code of conduct for parliamentary polls will not allow any electioneering until three weeks before the start of polling.

This means political parties and candidates in the December 18 general election will not be able to begin campaign before November 27.

According to the code of conduct, no political parties and candidates including those independent will be allowed to organise rallies, processions or any other canvassing activities without permission of district magistrates or police commissioners or officials authorised by them.

The restrictions will apply irrespective of whether the state of emergency is in force or relaxed or withdrawn.

The code set to be announced in gazette in a couple of days will also ban using portraits of national leaders including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and late president Ziaur Rahman in election posters.

It will take retrospective effect from September 18, the day it was assigned a Statutory Rules and Orders number by the law ministry, said EC Secretariat officials.

Now awaiting printing at the government press, it will remain effective until the publication of election results in official gazette, they added.

The codes of conduct in the previous parliamentary elections took effect with the announcement of election schedules.

A violation of the code is punishable by at least six months in prison, fine of Tk 50,000, and even cancellation of candidature in the event of gross irregularities.

With similar restrictions, the code of conduct for the upazila elections slated for December 24 and 28 has already been published in gazette. It will come into force with the announcement of polls schedule.

Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain yesterday said the EC will announce schedules for both the polls together in early November.

RESTRICTIONS

With the enforcement of the code of conduct for parliamentary polls, no prospective candidates or anyone on their behalf can donate or promise to donate to charities or other organisations openly or secretly.

None will be allowed to bring out procession or stage showdown during filing candidacy applications.

Processions or any showdowns using buses, trucks, motorcycles, trains, water transports and other vehicles will not be permitted. Besides, none will be allowed to bring out torch processions.

The code of conduct will also ban pasting posters on vehicles and public establishments across the country, and buildings, walls, trees and electricity pillars under the city corporation and municipalities areas.

Scrawling graffiti on vehicles, buildings, walls, bridges, road dividers or any other establishments, erecting archways and gates, illuminating structures and using helicopters in election campaigns too have been banned.

Only the party chiefs will be allowed to use choppers as means of travelling. But they will not be permitted to distribute leaflets, posters and drape banners from helicopters.

According to the code of conduct, portraits of party chiefs and candidates, and election symbols could be printed on posters, but no pictures of processions or programmes.

It means Awami League and BNP will not be able to use portraits of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman in electoral campaigns.

The code also prohibits electioneering at mosques, temples or any place of worship.

The EC has all along been arguing that a stricter code of conduct will help reduce election expenditures and thus encourage honest and competent candidates in national polls.

UNB adds: Schedules for the upazila and parliamentary elections will be announced simultaneously in the first week of November.

Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain announced the plans to reporters at his office yesterday.

He said the last dates for submitting nomination papers for both the elections would be the same.

He said the commission has plans to increase the number of polling centres for the parliamentary election. “There are 35,000 polling centres now and 10 percent of them will be increased for the parliamentary polls.”

Sakhawat said the EC is considering increasing the number of polling centres as long queues of voters were found during the elections to four city corporations and nine municipalities held on August 4.

Replying to a query, he said the final voter list for all areas will reach the EC between October 12 and 16.

He declined to answer whether the upcoming local polls would be partisan.

He added that the voting centres for both the parliamentary and upazila elections would be the same.

Sakhawat said transparent ballot boxes will be used in the parliamentary elections while non-transparent (steel) boxes during the upazila elections. “There are over 3 lakh steel ballot boxes in the country,” he said.

He said the EC is going to introduce postal ballots, especially for those like polling and presiding officers. “There'll be arrangements for up to 3.5 lakh postal ballots at the commission.”

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