Outside interference in polls 'unfortunate but a reality'

Says CEC Kazi Habibul Awal

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Foreign powers have been 'meddling with' the preparation of the upcoming 12th general election, said Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal, reports bdnews24.com.
While the Election Commission prepares to hold national elections in January, interference from foreigners was 'unfortunate but a reality', the CEC said.
There was no alternative to a free, fair and acceptable election to secure the future of the nation, Awal said.
"We need to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible to save our economy, future development and the garment sector," Awal said at a workshop for judicial magistrates on Monday.
The CEC talked about the statements issued by the United States over the elections, adding: "I can't dictate the US the way it can command me. That is another reality."
Awal also mentioned that 'sovereignty' is a 'relative' issue. The countdown to the 12th general election kicked off in November before the CEC announced the election schedule on Nov 15. The voting is set for Jan 7 next year.
The Awami League already completed the sales of its nomination forms and announced the names of its candidates. The Jatiya Party is on the verge of announcing theirs.
The BNP, its long-time ally Jamaat-e-Islami, and other like-minded parties, however, continued to enforce hartals and blockades calling for the government to resign giving way to a non-partisan caretaker government.
They claimed the upcoming election would be 'one-sided' and the election schedule should be scrapped. The 'chasm' between the political parties regarding the election is undesirable, the CEC said.
"They [foreigners] have a sole demand that we ensure the upcoming election is free, fair, and credible. We can't opt for any falsehood. Our political leadership has become divided over the fairness of the election. We did not wish for it."
Awal said that fairness and credibility in an election are something to believe in and not to be seen with open eyes. That public perception could not be measured with any scale. If the public considers the election as free, fair, and credible, then it is acceptable, he said.
Besides highlighting the electoral practices in the country for the past 50 years, the CEC talked about the current political situation.
"The country is experiencing some trouble over the election. There is trust as well as mistrust. We need to get over it and everyone has to be equally responsible to play their roles to uphold the constitutional obligations."
Awal urged the judicial magistrates to perform their duties with courage and honesty. He brought up the incident of voting being halted due to vote rigging in Brahmanbaria and Lakshmipur by-polls recently.
"Stamping blank ballots to rig the election has become a cultural norm in the elections. Using black money and muscle power also became part of the culture. We need to get over this and we're trying our best to do so. The commission pledged to hold a free, fair, neutral and credible election."
He said the contestants could not open campaigns 21 days before the election but they were allowed to hold meetings. The commission formed 300 election probe committees for the first time, he added.
"This proves that we really want vigilance."