Seven months have gone after the Election Commission announced the electoral roadmap, but it has not done even half of the work mentioned in the roadmap.
The EC, which was reconstituted on February 4, 2007, missed the deadline for most of the tasks that were supposed to be finished by the time specified in the roadmap it unveiled on July 15, 2007. For instance, the dialogues with the political parties on electoral law reforms and institutional reforms were not held in September-November last year according to the roadmap.
Political leaders expressed their doubt if the tasks mentioned in the roadmap would be completed within the stipulated timeframe. The election commissioners, however, are repeatedly claiming that all the tasks of the roadmap will definitely be completed in the scheduled time.
One of the major tasks of the EC is to prepare the voters’ roll with photographs by October this year, but so far less than half of the expected total number of voters has been registered. The EC’s own contribution to the project of voters’ registration was minimal, with the army doing the bulk of the work. A total of 3.44 crore voters has been registered in the voters’ lists as of February 11 in the last six months, starting from August last year. The EC expected that the total number of voters would be around 8 crore this time.
It also did not begin the tasks for printing, posting and correcting the draft voters’ lists which were supposed to begin last October, two months after the field-level tasks had begun. The EC, at last on Thursday, said it would publish the draft voters’ lists of four city corporations and seven municipal areas on February 18.
The EC has decided in principle to include the names of expatriate voters this time in the electoral roll, but there is no visible progress in this regard. The two elections commissioners — M Sohul Hussain and M Sakhawat Hussain — went on a visit to the United Kingdom between November 5 and 20 on the EC’s expense to assess the eagerness of expatriate Bangladeshis there to be enlisted as voters, although there is still no rule to facilitate their enrolment in the electoral roll.
The roadmap also detailed a number of reforms within the EC itself. According to the proposed reforms, the EC’s secretariat should have been made independent and its information technology wing strengthened by December 2007. Separation of the EC secretariat from the Prime Minister’s Office, which is now the Chief Adviser’s Office, remains in limbo because of a provision of the ordinance in this regard. Also, no move has been made for strengthening its IT wing as yet.
The roadmap said that the internal reorganisation of the EC secretariat would be completed by December 2007. But the work of the EC — from the secretariat-level to the field-level — was mostly done on an ad hoc basis. The vacant positions at different levels of the EC were not filled and frustration is reportedly brewing among the officials who have been deprived of due promotion.
The EC, however, has claimed that the draft of the amendments to its service rules, aimed at making the jobs of election officials transferable and the EC secretariat independent, was at its final stage.
The EC missed the December 2007 deadline to wrap up its dialogues with the political parties over the proposed electoral reforms because of the delay in resolving the legal dispute over which of the BNP factions should represent the party at the talks. The EC, without completing the first round of talks, has announced a five-day schedule for the second round of dialogues with political parties from February 24.
The EC is yet to begin the other major tasks of holding elections to different local government bodies within January as per its electoral roadmap. Its roadmap stipulated that all the overdue city corporation, municipality, union parishad and upazila parishad elections should be held before the general elections. It later modified the plan, seeking to complete the city corporation elections before the parliamentary polls.
The EC had announced that the elections to Rajshahi City Corporation would be held in January. The work for preparing the voters’ list started there in August last year. But the EC later shifted its stance, saying it wanted to hold the overdue polls to four city corporations in Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet in April.
According to the roadmap, the political parties will have to be registered with the EC by June this year. But it is yet to finalise the pros and cons of the provision of registering the political parties.
Awami League’s presidium member, Matia Chowdhury, said, ‘It is uncertain whether the EC will complete the tasks within the timeframe mentioned in the roadmap as it has been going at a slow pace.’