EC fears tough time ahead

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The Election Commission has expressed fear it may run into difficulties tackling things after the announcement of the election schedule if there is no consensus over holding of an inclusive election.
Despite uncertainties over whether the rival political camps would finally come to an understanding over the poll-time government, the commission has decided to announce the election schedule by Monday.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Friday threatened to immobilise the country from the moment the EC would announce the polls schedule.
Election commissioners, while talking to New Age, said the EC was willing to wait as long as possible before announcing the election schedule for a consensus in some ways for holding ‘peaceful polls’. 
But after a meeting with the president, the commission decided to announce the schedule by the current week.
More than one election commissioners out of five told New Age that the commission had preferred announcing the polls schedule in the first week of December ostensibly to give the political actors more time to reach a consensus.
The chief election commissioner on a number of occasions told newsmen that the EC would wait until the eleventh hour for a consensus in politics so that they could hold a ‘peaceful election.’
The election commissioners said they feared escalation of street violence after the announcement of the schedule and even election offices across the country might come under attack.
‘We do not know what is going to happen on the streets and how the commission would tackle the possible violence and ensure a level-playing field for all,’ an election commissioner said.
An EC official said field-level officers were also worried over what would happen after the announcement of the election schedule. 
He said that after the recent arson attack on the Narayanganj election office, the EC had written to the authorities concerned to ensure ‘adequate security’ for the election offices across the country.
‘Though the commission has taken some measures keeping in view possible outbreak of violence to protect the election materials as well as the election offices, we are doubtful how far those will be effective,’ he said.
He said the commission had decided to keep at least two sets of voters’ list in all the district treasury office so that one set could be replaced in case of accidents.
Besides, the EC’s field officials claimed that prospective polling personnel like school teachers, bank officers and officials from different government and semi-government institutions had started lobbying to avoid being on election duty.
‘Many prospective polling offices have requested us not to include them in the list of polling officers,’ an upazila election officer told New Age.
He said many of the prospective polling officers had already submitted applications to their respective authorities like upazila nirbahi officers requesting that they not be included in the panel of polling officers showing various excuses.
An upazila election officer said they, through their association, had asked the commission to ensure adequate security for election offices across the country.
District and upazila election officers who came to Dhaka on Saturday to take the nomination papers and other documents took police help to carry the election materials back to the district offices.
On Tuesday, the commission led by chief election commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad had met president Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban to brief the president on its preparations for the polls.
Commission officials said that the president had asked the commissioners to announce the schedule as early as possible.
An election commissioner told New Age the EC was likely to announce on Sunday the schedule for the 10th parliamentary elections as it wanted to hold the polls either on January 5 or 6 next year.
On Friday, election commissioner Shah Nawaz, talking to newsmen in his home district Chandpur, had said the schedule would be announced by next Monday with a plan to hold the polls in the first week of January.
According to the constitution, the commission needs to hold the 10th parliamentary polls by January 24, 2014, when the current parliament’s tenure would expire.

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