The 11th parliamentary elections are set to be held with the field administration the government has laid out as the Election Commission has no plan to bring about any change in the administration.
Opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front on November 14 demanded that the Election Commission needed to reshuffle the field administration, laid out by the government, to ensue minimum neutrality of the field administration during the elections, rescheduled for December 30.
Governance campaigners, including a former caretaker government adviser, told New Age on Friday that the reshuffle of the field administration was a precondition for a fair election as the field officials were directly involved in conducting polls.
They said that the field administration, including the police administration, had been reshuffled in consultation with the Election Commission before previous general elections to ensure neutrality of the field officials.
They said that the commission had the authority to ask the government to bring about necessary changes in the field administration as it desired.
Election commissioner M Rafiqul Islam, however, said that the commission had no plan to ask the government to reshuffle the field administration.
He said that the commission would only think about the matter if complaints were raised against any particular officer.
The campaigners said that the upcoming general election was going to be held in a different system as there was no election time government while the previous elections, since 1991, except that of January 5, 2014 were held under a non-party government.
Former election commissioner M Saiful Islam said that the commission was now empowered to ask the government to reshuffle the administration as per the commission’s desire.
He, however, said that holding a free and fair election under this political system was tough even if the commission reorganised the field administration.
Former caretaker government adviser M Hafizuddin Khan said that the election-time governments had always reorganised the field administration to break the unholy alliance of vested interests if any.
He also said that such reshuffle usually created a fresh electoral atmosphere helping the commission to ensure its control over the administration.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said that all the governments usually tried to get some advantage laying out the civil administration posting handpicked people at upazilas and districts.
He said that the commission should take necessary initiatives to ensure neutrality of the commission as well as the field administration as the deputy commissioners were already appointed as returning officers.
Local government expert Tofail Ahmed said confusions continued to be created as there was no change in the government after the announcement of the election schedule.
He said that reshuffle of filed administration would at least bring about a change in the atmosphere in the respective electoral areas.
On November 8, chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda announced the election schedule amid protests from the Jatiya Oikya Front for seven-point demand, including resignation of the government, dissolution of the parliament and formation of a non-party poll-time government.
On November 9, the commission appointed deputy commissioners in the 64 districts and two divisional commissioners as returning officers and all the upazila nirbahi officers as assistant returning officers.
Deputy secretaries loyal to the ruling party are usually appointed as deputy commissioners, who also act as the district magistrates, said governance campaigners.
According to the public administration ministry, the government appointed new deputy commissioners at 36 districts between July 31 and October 15.
On November 7, the government promoted 235 additional superintendents of police to the rank of superintendent of police.
The governance campaigners said that such promotions and postings were made just before the announcement of the polls schedule to set up the field administration so that the ruling party could get benefit during the elections.
On October 21, at a press conference at Ganabhaban residence, prime minister Sheikh Hsaina hinted that the cabinet would continue to work during the elections, and it might not be reduced.
Earlier, on September 11, ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said that the election-time government would probably be formed in mid-October and the size of the government would be small while no technocrats would be inducted into the cabinet.
The four technocrat ministers — expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment minister Nurul Islam, religious affairs minister Matior Rahman, science and technology minister Yafesh Osman and posts, telecommunications and information technology minister Mustafa Jabbar — resigned on November 6 following prime minister’s instruction, but continued to hold the offices saying that their resignations were yet to be accepted.
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