The Election Commission (EC) has set December 23 (Sunday) for voting in the 11th parliamentary election, amid calls from the Jatiya Oikya Front for deferring the schedule.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda made the announcement in a recorded speech broadcast on state-run Bangladesh TV and Bangladesh Betar at 7:00pm yesterday. In the address relayed by private television channels and radio stations, the CEC set November 19 as the deadline for submission of nominations.
The commission will scrutinize nominations on November 22 and set November 29 as the deadline for candidates to pull out of the race, giving aspirants a 10-day window to consider their decisions.
Nearly 104.2 million people, including a little more than 51.6 million women, are registered as voters. They will elect 300 representatives to parliament through balloting in about 40,000 polling stations.
The Election Commission has completed the process of deploying about 700,000 officials to conduct the polls. As many as 600,000 members of police, BGB, Bangladesh Coast Guard, Ansar and Village Defence Party will be deployed to maintain law and order. In addition, the army will be deployed in aid of the civil administration.
CEC Huda's speech came on the heels of the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front's repeated calls for the commission to defer the election schedule. The ruling Awami League, on the other hand, urged the EC to adhere to its plan.
The EC's position is that it has a constitutional obligation to hold the election by January 28, as the countdown to the polls has already began.
While addressing the nation at 7:00pm, the CEC urged all political parties to participate in the general election to maintain the trend of democracy and pace of development uninterrupted in the country.
"If any disagreements and disputes remain among them, I urge them to resolve them politically. I request everybody to demonstrate patience and respectful political behavior towards one another," the CEC said.
He stated that he expected a competitive election with the participation of all political parties. "In a competitive election, I believe, irregularities can be checked with the active participation of the supporters of candidates," he added.
Huda urged the political parties to remain alert so that competition did not turn into revenge or violence.Law enforcement agencies will strictly be instructed to make sure that no voters, political leaders, activists, supporters or agents face harassment or false cases, said Huda.
He also assured the people of the country of creating a level-playing field by providing equal facilities for all during the election. "All candidates and political parties will be privy to equal facilities. Necessary circulars will be issued soon in this regard."
Listing a number of measures taken by the EC for holding the national election, the CEC said the commission has prepared the voter list and amended the relevant laws ahead of the election while a list has been published re-demarcating parliamentary constituencies.
Besides, the voter list has been finalized, selection of 40,000 voting centers completed and the registration applications of 75 political parties have been disposed of, he said.
Training programs have been arranged for the first time for polling agents, the CEC said, adding that the procurement of election materials and printing works has been completed.
"Executive as well as judicial magistrates will be appointed at all parliamentary constituencies," he said, adding the Election Commission will strictly monitor all officials and initiate "legal measures" against those who will fail to perform their duties.