Field-level officials of the election commission (EC) are in favour of deploying defence personnel as regular law enforcement to create confidence among voters during the next general elections.
They came up with these recommendations as their opinion was sought in order to amend 14 laws, rules and directives ahead of the 11th parliamentary polls.
Reinsertion of the provision for ‘No’ option in the ballot paper is another of the 58 recommendations the officials submitted to the law section of the EC secretariat.
EC officials said the draft recommendations will be placed at the EC’s consultation meetings with the political parties, civil society leaders and election experts likely to begin soon.
The armed forces — army, navy, and air force — were included as a law enforcement agency alongside police, armed police, RAB, ansar, BGB (then BDR), and the coast guard, in the amended version of the Representation of People Order during the past caretaker government in 2008. However, in 2013, the armed forces were excluded from the definition of law enforcement agency as per RPO.
Inclusion of the armed forces as a law enforcement agency is being emphasised in view of the fact that the election would be held under the incumbent political government. It is believed to be important for creating an even field for all political parties.
“Army deployment is necessary to create confidence in the minds of the voters. In fact, it would be hard to hold a fair election without the army. We cannot understand it why it had been removed from the definition of law enforcement,” said former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has all along favoured army deployment while the ruling Awami League wants to keep the army only as striking force.
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed iterated the party’s demand for deployment of the armed forces and added that the BNP wants election-time supportive government for the sake of fair election.
AL presidium member, health minister Mohammad Nasim said the army should be deployed during the next general elections the way current election law has defined.
However, Jatiya Party leader GM Quader said, if the army deployment creates confidence among the political parties, army should be included as law enforcement in the electoral laws.
Although the EC officials recommended reintroduction of the provision for allowing ‘No’ vote as a choice of electorates, both the AL and the BNP do not consider it important.