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3 August, 2017 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 2 August, 2017 10:37:45 PM
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11TH PARLIAMENTARY POLLS

UN wants to assist in big manner

The global body not yet sure about EC capability to hold an all-inclusive election
DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT
UN wants to assist in big manner

In the lead up to the 11th parliamentary polls, the United Nations wants to assist in a big manner, like it did before the 2008 general election, but the global body is not yet sure about the capability of the present Election Commission (EC) to hold a successful all-inclusive election, according to sources concerned.

A four-member UN team, led by Svetlana Galkina, public outreach adviser to the office of electoral assistance under the global body, concluded a 10-day visit to Bangladesh to assess as to what support the EC needs and the UN can provide. The team, which arrived on July 25, is scheduled to depart this (Thursday) morning.

According to the sources, the EC held a meeting with the United Nations Development Programme in June where the commission sought assistance in 10 aspects including Nationa Identity (NID) cards, voter awareness, EVM, training for officials, confidential polling booths and smart seal and ink. The visit of the team has taken place based on that meeting.  While in Dhaka, the delegation held a series of meetings with the EC, parliament speaker, different political parties, government officials at different levels, resident diplomatic community, the UN system, and representatives of the civil society.

It also held meetings with former election commissioner Brigadier General (retd) Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain and Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of the international relations department at the Dhaka University.

The sources also said that the team noted the proposals and suggestion of the stakeholders, including the EC, and will place them before the UN to make a decision.

“I am under a feeling that the UN wants to return to assist the electoral process in a big way. But, they appear to be not so sure about the capability of the present EC,” a meeting source told The Independent yesterday.

“The UN is doubtful if the present commission has the dynamism and ability to conduct a free, fare and inclusive election,” he said.

The UN assisted the EC in a big way prior to ninth parliamentary election on December 29, 2008 especially with regard to preparing a flawless voter list with photographs. The assistance continued even after the poll.

In April, 2012, a five-year project titled ‘The Strengthening of Election Management in Bangladesh (SEMB)’ was undertaken by the UN with collaboration with the EC to build the capacity of the commission its secretariat and local offices, to fulfill their mandate of conducting fair, credible and transparent elections and to become a permanent, professional, credible and independent institution of governance. The project was terminated in July, 2015 before the completion of January 5 national poll.

“Yes, the UN team met me to get my opinions based on my experience as an election commissioner,” Sakhawat Hussain told The Independent yesterday.

“I did share my experience and put forward some suggestions that will enable the holding of a free, fair and credible election,” he said, placing emphasis on control and communication between the EC secretariat and field-level officials.

“I think during the poll there should be a direct contact between the presiding officer and chief election commissioner and other commissioners so that any problem can be solved much more quickly,” said the former election commissioner, appointed during the military-backed caretaker government in 2007.

He also said that if possible, CCTVs could be installed at the polling stations.

To a question, Brig Hussain said, “My understanding is that the UN wants to help. But, it depends upon the commission as to how much it can take by proving

its capability and credibility to hold free, fair and

inclusive election. At the end of the day, the money will come from the donors who need to be convinced. The UN will only work as a coordinator.”

He criticised the immediate-past EC, saying that ‘it has tarnished the image of the constitutional body to a great extent’.

Despite repeated attempts, chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda and election commissioner brigadier general (retd) Shahadat Hossain could not be reached for their comments.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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