Enact specific law to pick CEC, ECs

It is not legal to appoint a chief electoral commissioner or election commissioners with the recommendations of a search committee, which bypasses the country's constitution. This was stated yesterday by prominent citizens.

They stated that it was regrettable that no law is in place to appoint CEC or election commissioners. However, there is a provision in the Constitution for enacting such a law.

In the absence of a law, the president created search committees in 2012 to appoint commissioners and the CEC.

A webinar entitled "Election Commission Recruitment Laws & Relevant Thoughts" was attended by lawyers, election experts, academics, and rights activists. It stated that such a search committee would recommend election commissioners who are "party-sycophants".

The two previous election commissions were unable to fulfill their duties properly.

A draft of the law was also prepared by Sushasoner Jonno Nagarik (Shujan).

The draft proposes that a six-member search panel be led by a retired chief judge. Additionally, the president can appoint commissioners who are skilled in managing an administration as well as those who are honest and righteous and neutral.

Amir-Ul-Islam is a senior jurist and member of the country’s constitution formulation panel. He stated that everything related to the formulation of a law should follow Article 118 of its constitution.

"An Election Commission for Bangladesh shall be established according to Article 118 (1). The President shall, subject to any laws made in this regard, appoint the chief election commissary and any other election commissioners.

Amir-Ul-Islam stated that there is very little scope for innovation in law formulation. However, we can examine the processes followed by other countries.

MA Matin, a retired justice, stated that a chief search committee should not be from the sitting or retired justices. Instead, the chief should be someone from another field and have experience in elections and administration.

He suggested that the name "search committee", which has been controversial, be changed.

Shahdeen Malik, another jurist, stated that the government was playing tricks on people by forming a search committee to appoint CECs and ECs. Because he must consult with the prime minister on all matters, except for the appointment of the PM or the chief justice, the president cannot form a search commission.

He said, "The government creates the search committee so that the committee chooses its members... If the EC forms with such a search committee it will fail to deliver."

Many believe that there is not enough time for a specific law to appoint ECs, as the current five-year term of the Election Commission expires next February.

Shahdeen however stated that the law could be passed quickly if both parliament and the government want it.

Badiul Alam Majumdar, Shujan Secretary, stated that the search committee was created on an ad-hoc basis.

These search committees do not consist of neutral people. They select election commissioners from the party ranks. He said that the two previous commissions have failed to perform and been involved in various anomalies, contributing to a broken electoral system."

M Hafizuddin Khan, President of Shujan, stated that the country's electoral system was completely destroyed.

"People are not satisfied by the performance of the search committees. The current commission does not accept fair elections. He said that voters don't want to vote, as they believe there is no benefit from voting."

Sakhawat Hussain, a former EC Brig Gen (retired), said that the law to appoint ECs should have been based on the constitution. He said that similar laws are found in many South Asian countries.

He said, "We prepared a draft law during our time. It was sent to law ministry but it is regrettable that there are no further discussions about it."

Ali Imam Majumder, former cabinet secretary, said that there needs to be a change in governance and the government system in order for a free and fair election.

Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, said that the constitution cannot be altered.

The constitution can be amended at any time, if necessary. He suggested a national government to supervise a national election.

Asif Nazrul, Dhaka University professor, echoed the need to pass a law to create an election commission.

"But they cannot hold free and fair elections under the current government. We must change the way elections are conducted. He suggested that it could be either a caretaker or interim government or a national government.

The discussion included former Secretary Abdul Latif Mondal and Shireen Huq rights activist, Shahidul Alam CEO of non-governmental organisation Brotee Sharmeen Murshid. Journalist Ajoy Dasgupta, Ruhin Hossain Prince of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Article 19's Faruk Faaisel, Shujan leaders Prof Sekandar Khan, and Zakir Hossain.

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