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Election Commission moves to abolish its own power

Move causes surprise and concern in Bangladesh

Election Commission moves to abolish its own power

A picture taken during the last general election in 2008 (Chandan Robert Rebeiro)

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
Bangladesh

July 31, 2013

With a general election just a few months away, the Bangladesh Election Commission has caused surprise and consternation by deciding to abolish its own authority to cancel candidacies.

Election Commissioner Abu Hafiz told journalists in Dhaka this week that the Law Ministry has been asked to amend electoral laws so that the EC is no longer empowered to end a person’s candidacy.

It was controversially invested with the authority in 2008, in order to crack down on any electoral violations or abuses, but it has never been used.

Analysts and observers say that although the authority was in effect symbolic, it has been effective in curbing candidates’ electoral malpractices, such as providing false financial statements, unlawful use of funds and inappropriate behavior towards election officials.

Dilip Kumar Sarkar, coordinator of Citizens for Good Governance, says the EC is taking a wrong path.

“For years we have campaigned for strengthening the EC, in order to empower democracy. We think this move will weaken the commission and we fear it might mean the return of malpractices,” he told ucanews.com.

Former election commissioner M Shakhawat Hussein described the decision as unacceptable and speculated on the possibility of a hidden agenda. “It seems the commission is not proposing the change out of its own free will but because it is being pressed,” he said.

Nirmol Rozario, secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, added to the dissent.

“I think the EC’s decision won’t help in holding elections fairly and it will also harm democratic practices,” he said.

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