EC differences over army deployment wide open

Published: November 14, 2017 21:57:14 | Updated: November 15, 2017 16:33:31

Differences of opinion over army deployment among the Commissioners at the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat took a twisting turn on Tuesday.

While Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda said the EC has not taken any decision to deploy army during the 11th Jatiya Samgsad elections, another Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder reiterated his Monday’s statement that the army would be deployed in the next general election.

According to a BSS report, the CEC said, "The Commission has not taken any decision in this regard (although) discussions are underway if the army would be called out during the polls time."

As the CEC's attention was drawn to Commissioner Mahbub's remarks that the EC could favour military deployment, Huda said "it was his (Mahbub’s) personal remarks."

Acting EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed supplemented the CEC's remarks and said that the EC could take decision on military deployment after announcement of the polls schedule.

"We still have one year in hand (before the election)," he said.

Asked whether the military could be described as a "law enforcement agency" during polls, Ahmed said the country's Constitution, Representation of the People Order (RPO), and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) would require amendments to define army as a law enforcement agency.

"Army is a force to protect the State, it is not a law enforcement agency," Ahmed added.

Asked about the scopes or possibilities of empowering army with magisterial authority during polls as demanded by BNP, he said previous elections when military was called out, they were deployed as striking forces.

"No election in the country saw the deployment of army having magistracy power," he added.

Replying to another question, Ahmed also said the Commission was yet to take any decision to use Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in the election.

"EVMs will be used experimentally in a ward in the next Rangpur City Corporation election, but decisions will be taken later about the application of the device in the national election," he added.

Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder on Tuesday reiterated that the army would be deployed in the next general election.

"I talked to other Commissioners and their realisation is that the army should be deployed in the election. I also personally think that there should be army to meet public expectations," he told reporters at his office in the city's Nirbachan Bhaban on Tuesday.

According to a UNB report, Mahbub Talukder said time will say how and in which format army will be deployed in the polls.

Apparently noting that the army can be deployed within the existing legal framework, he said according to the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, a commissioned army officer may bring anyone under laws during any trouble.

He, however, said the decision is yet to be taken in a Commission's meeting over the army deployment.

The Election Commissioner also said no 'identified' Jamaat man will be allowed to contest the next parliamentary elections even as an independent candidate.

"We won't allow identified persons of Jamaat-e-Islami in the election... If they want to contest the election as independent candidates, the Commission will take decision assessing them individually," he said.

He, however, did not explain whether any legal reforms will be needed to keep the Jamaat men out of the election race.

Noting that they will sincerely try to arrange a fair election, he said, "We're accountable to the people for holding an election which will be free, fair and neutral and participatory and there will be question over it."

About the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), the election commissioner said it will not be possible to hold the next national election fully based on EVMs due to time constraints. "And Most of the old EVMs have already lost their workability. However, we'll go for EVMs in the city corporation election on a trial basis."

About registration of new political parties, Mahbub Talukder said the Commission will provide registration to those parties which will fulfill the pre-conditions. "We'll in no way show laxity over fulfillment of the pre-conditions."

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