Noted citizens yesterday called upon the Election Commission to play a neutral and transparent role to make sure that the administration involved in the electoral process discharges its duties neutrally.
Casting doubt over the role of the EC and the government in holding credible polls, they said only spontaneous participation of people on the polls day can overcome uncertainty over the election.
The speakers were addressing a press conference arranged under the platform titled “Nagorikder Pokkhe Amra” at Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital.
Reading out a written statement, Prof Gitiara Nasreen said various incidents ahead of the December 30 polls had created suspicion among people that the EC was biased towards the government instead of doing its constitutional duty.
On a number of occasions, the election commissioners did not discharge their duties independently and acted as if they were subordinate to the rulers, said Prof Nasreen, a teacher of the department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University.
“In such a situation, it is normal that people will be doubtful about fair polls,” she added.
Placing a five-point demand that included ensuring EC's neutral role, she said space should be created for local and foreign observers and journalists so that they can perform their duties independently.
She urged the authorities concerned to ensure security of religious and ethnic minority groups along with the marginalised people during the election.
Noted economist Prof Anu Muhammad said the EC's role, which is necessary for holding a democratic election, is so far absent.
The EC severely lacked authority over the civil administration and the police. Besides, the roles of law enforcement agencies and administration over recent violence were also not sufficient for holding fair polls, he said.
“Amid this, people are the only hope,” he said, adding that the country can only overcome the present situation through their active participation in the election.
As the election will be held under a partisan government, it will be a challenge for them to hold it in a free and credible manner, he also said.
Criticising violation of the electoral code of conduct by the ministers and the lawmakers during electioneering, Supreme Court lawyer Dr Shahdeen Malik said they were doing so as they have no respect for the rule of law and any morality.
“Such an act is not possible without utter disrespect for the rule of law and morality,” he said.
The electoral code of conduct has been formulated to create level-playing field, said Dr Malik, a noted jurist of the country.
If the next government is not formed through a transparent process then the country's image will be tainted in the outer world while foreign investment will also be hampered, said eminent historian Prof Ahmed Kamal.
Criticising the restriction on journalists over covering the election, photographer Shahidul Alam said such a restriction was imposed as the government was scared.