EC furious over repeated code of conduct violation

The number of repeated violations of electoral code of conduct centering the two Dhaka city corporations’ polls is causing much aggravation for the Election Commission.  In the last 10 days, more than 100 complaints have been submitted to the Returning Officer’s office in this regard. 

Many candidates are submitting complaints directly to the Election Commission (EC).  These allegations include tearing posters of opponents, threatening election workers, assaults, playing music  loudly prior and after designated campaigning times and using photo of leaders in posters of councilor candidates, even though there is no permit for it.

Election observers say the EC should give importance to such small events in the campaign. Otherwise, small events can lead to bigger unexpected situations.  EC officials, on the other hand, said forty-three magistrates have been appointed in two city corporations to prevent these incidents. Their activities were not visible at the beginning. Anyway, they have been instructed to be more active. 

EC sources said that according to the office of the Returning Officer of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), some 32 complaints have been submitted in the last 10 days.  Of these, eight complaints have been made by BNP nominated mayoral candidate Tabith Awal. The rest are of councilor candidates.

Similarly, according to the office of the Returning Officer of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), there have been 64 complaints filed there.  Among them, the BNP-nominated mayoral candidate Israque Hossain filed nine complaints. The rest are other mayoral candidates and councilors. 

Most of these allegations have been forwarded to the Executive Magistrate for investigation. Some of the allegations were returned by the returning officer himself.  Some of the allegations have been dismissed by the Returning Officer himself after collecting adequate bond. However, the cases sent to the magistrates for investigation is not followed up.

EC officials said a magistrate has been appointed to each ward for the duration of the polls to take immediate action for violating the code of conduct.  There are 25 reserved wards in South City Corporation and 18 in the North coming to a total of 43 wards. 

Immediately after the announcement of the election schedule, forty-three executive magistrates have been sent into the field in these wards.  The EC is spending about seven and a half thousand taka every day behind each executive magistrate. But, the election commission is angry at their inactivity. 

Asked about this, Kavita Khanam, head of the Election Commission’s Law and Rule Reform Committee and the Election Commissioner, said “The magistrates had already been warned by the two returning officers about inaction. Two returning officers held separate meetings with the magistrates. Legislative meetings were also called on Wednesday by divisional commissioners and district administrators to make the activities of magistrates more visible. 

Even if they do not increase their activity, the election commission will not be lagging behind them on the recommendation of the Returning Officer. He said that every magistrate is required to submit a daily work report to the returning officer in writing. He keeps track of it.” Returning officer Abdul Baten of Dhaka South City said he had asked the magistrates to increase their activity. If not, inform the Commission. However, according to him, the activities of magistrates are increasing. It needs to be further enhanced.

Similarly, returning officer of Dhaka North City, Abul Kashem, said he went to many places and issued fines himself for violating the code of conduct. These tasks are primarily intended to be done by the executive magistrates. They were not so active in the beginning. However, it is expected that their activities will increase in the remaining days of the campaign.