Poll observers lay stress on neutrality

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Pns: Election observers, yesterday, said that local election observers will remain impartial during the elections as they will be appointed with proper identification. They also said that there is no instance in the history of Bangladesh where the Election Commission had expelled any observer for the violation of the observer rules and regulations. Lauding the Election Observer Policy (Amendment) Act, 2017, they said if the policy is followed properly there would be no question regarding the impartiality of the observers. These views were expressed by local election observers after holding a discussion with the Election Commission (EC), led by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda, at Election Bhaban in the capital.

Abdul Alim, the director of Election Working Group, said, “We’ve tried to present the problems that we face in our roles as election observers. We get our identity just a day before the elections. We have told them to issue it a few days earlier. Also, the EC directs us to stay in the election centres for a short frame of time, but the time limit is not mentioned. It should be specified.”

He also said, “We’ve told the EC to arrange training for the election observers because it would help them to understand how to carry out their duties.”

Replying to the allegation that election observers follow directives from political parties, he said, “EC has some guideline. As far I know, EC has never expelled any observer for violating rules till now. We have a code of conduct, we abide by it. Observers don’t work for any party.”

He also said, “I had two suggestions for the voters’ lists. The list should be audited by a third party, before publishing it. Besides, the voter list update should begin on a specific date and the date can be announced as national voter day.”

Chairman of Jatiya Nirbachan Parjabekkhan Parishad (JANIPOP) said, “I have proposed training for the observers. Different problems arise in the field in the absence of training for the observers. The EC can arrange training for the trainers through its Electoral Training Institute.”

Munira Khan, the president of Fair Election Monitoring Alliance (FEMA), said, “The EC has given us a copy of the Election Observer Policy. It’s a good policy if properly implemented. The current policy said no one below the age of 25 years can be an observer. I have told the EC to make this 20 years, because it is better to have people who are agile and active as observers.”

Replying to a query, she said, “When we take on board an observer, we check everything properly. If any observer is found to have links with political parties, they cease to be a member of FEMA.”

“Observers below the age of 20 years are likely to be non-partisan. All observers have to take the oath of non-partisanship. We’ll remain impartial and continue to work as a vital support for the EC,” she added.

“I have suggested that there should not have any prior seals on the ballot papers by the presiding officers. The CEC has accepted it,” said Anower Farazy Emon, the president of Bangladesh Manobadhikar Commission.

Earlier, the CEC in his opening speech called upon the election observers to act impartially and said that observers should not have any political affiliation.

“We are noting down your suggestions. We hope you will send trained observers in the election centres. Besides, you should remain impartial,” he added. The EC will hold dialogue with the women leaders today and, on Tuesday, it will have the concluding dialogue with former Commissioners.

PNS/Tamanna Khan



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