Code of conduct in the campaigns of Dhaka north and south city corporations’ elections is being violated in 'free style' as contestants are far away from abiding by the electoral rules.
After ten days of pre-polls campaign, the Election Commission (EC) has not yet been able to take any step against the violators.
As a result, candidates and their supporters have become more reluctant to go by the code of conduct in their campaigns.
Although 43 magistrates are fielded in the two city corporations to look into the matter, but in reality they have not lodged complaints to EC. However, the candidates claim they are conducting election campaigns according to the code of conduct.
If violation of code of conduct continues, the electoral environment may witness more heated scenario. Analysts have expressed concern that the situation may go out of control.
Returning officer's office sources said 61 candidates so far have filed complaints in city elections. Out of the total, 41 complaints were filed in Dhaka South City Corporation and 20 in Dhaka North City Corporation.
Most of the complainants are the rebel councillors of BNP, Jatiya Party and Awami League. The BNP's two mayoral candidates Tabitha Awal and Ishraq Hossain are also on the list of complainants.
It was further reported that most of the allegations were sent to the executive magistrates concerned.
According to some allegations, the concerned candidate has been called to the Returning Officer's office. Two candidates have been fined. So far, the commission has not taken any action for violating the code of conduct.
Returning officer of Dhaka North City Corporation election Abul Kashem said, “Compliance with the code of conduct is being done well. Yet in some places violations are taking place.”
“The complaint is being sent to the magistrates only after receiving it. I'm also visiting field areas myself”, he added.
Replying to a question, he turned down the allegations that the code of conduct is being flouted.
Returning Officer of Dhaka South City Corporation Election Abdul Baten said, “I had a meeting with law enforcement agencies members and magistrates.”
Magistrates have been instructed to strictly adhere to the code of conduct, he said adding that “The law enforcement agencies have been entrusted with the task of maintain law and order”.
He said, the commission will take action against the persons at fault according to the law.
Election expert Sujan editor Badiul Alam Majumder said, the candidates of the two cities are constantly violating the code of conduct.
But the Election Commission has not taken any action or made intervention so far in controlling it, he added.
The EC has been empowered to compel candidates to comply with the code of conduct.
In Section 7-B of Code of Conduct, any candidate wishing to hold a rally and house meeting must notify the local police authority 24 hours before the proposed time.
Every day the four mayoral candidates of the Awami League and the BNP are holding multiple rallies during campaigns. Due to these road side rallies, city dwellers are facing intense traffic jams.
16(gha) of the Code of Conduct states that no election camp or office shall be set up on any road or place intended for the movement and general use of the people. But the real picture is completely opposite. Without approving these rules, most councillors have set up election camps on footpaths and roads in many places.
In this regard, Awami League's mayor candidate Sheikh Fazle Noor Tapas said, "We are conducting campaign in a very fair environment."
BNP mayoral candidate Ishraq Hossain said, “I have told the leaders and the Election Steering Committee that they should follow the code of conduct. Leaders at all levels are given such guidance.”
The Awami League mayoral candidate Atiqul Islam and BNP's Tabitha Awal also echoed the same. They said they were conducting the campaigns according to the code of conduct.
If a candidate violates any of the provisions of the rules, he shall be sentenced to a maximum of 6 months’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of Tk 50,000 or both.
On condition of anonymity Assistant Returning Officers of the city corporation elections, said one magistrate has been appointed for every three wards. It is the magistrate's responsibility to check violation of the code of conduct.
Although the rules of conduct are there, the activities of many of the magistrates are not visible. Even when letters were sent to the magistrates to investigate the allegations, the reply is not available in due time.