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AL constitution to be amended, if needed

2015-10-14 12:44:49
AL constitution to be amended, if needed

Bahram Khan, The Report:

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said in a cabinet meeting that the constitution of the Awami League will be amended, if necessary. It has been learnt while talking to two ministers exclusively after the cabinet meeting on Monday.

In the regular cabinet meeting five laws (amendment) concerning local governments were approved finally.

According to the national information window, there are 4,550 unions, 488 upazilas, 64 districts and 10 city corporations in the country.

If these proposed laws are passed in the parliament, the political parties registered with the Election Commission will be able to field their own candidates for contesting election to the posts of union council chairmen and members, upazila chairmen, vice chairmen, women vice chairmen, municipality mayors and commissioners and district council chairmen. On the other hand, anyone will be able to contest these elections as independent candidates also.

The party candidates will contest election with the symbols of their respective parties. For example, the candidates from the Awami League will contest election with the boat symbol in the local government polls. The candidates from the BNP will contest election with the paddy sheaf symbol.

When asked about this decision of the government, local government expert Tofael Ahmed said, “Every issue has its pros and cons. What is important is how it will be used. But it will benefit the parties more than the common people.”

There is a five-tier local government system in Bangladesh. They are the union councils, upazila councils, municipalities, district councils and the city corporations. Of them, only the district councils are being run by administrators picked by the government without any election.

After formation of the government by the Awami League for the second successive term there has been a demand raised by different quarters that the local government elections should be held under the party banners. The AL constitution in the part titled ‘Commitments’ has mentioned the issue of strengthening the local governments.

The section 6 in it states the commitment “to build a strong local government system at all levels of the state up to the grassroots with a view to ensuring participation of all people and their empowerment.”

In the last election the Awami League had no manifesto to change the local government electoral system. In the election manifesto under the part titled ‘Our Target and Announcement’ a commitment was made to empower further the district, upazila and union councils.

It was also mentioned that different development programmes including education, health, law and order and infrastructure would be handed over to the local governments.

About the move to change the local government electoral system without implementing the election manifestos, Sushasaner Janya Nagorik secretary Badiul Alam Majumder told The Report, “Though it was mentioned in the manifesto that the local government system would be strengthened, but in reality it was not done. Now by changing the electoral system for paving the way for election under party banners they are actually strengthening the parties’ grip on the election. This will not bring any benefit to the people. Rather, it will benefit the party.”

Awami League presidium member Nuh-ul Alam Lenin thinks the election would strengthen the foundation of the democratic system at the grassroots level. Hailing the new system Nuh-ul-Alam Lenin told The Report, “We had long been working on implementation of this system. I think this will help remove the scope of cheating in the name of maintaining a distance from the party politics. This will help strengthen democracy at the grassroots level.”

About the system of nomination of a candidate for election this member of the AL’s highest policy-making body said on passage of the bills in the parliament the Election Commission would amend the political party rules. Then the issue of selecting party candidates for election would be finalized.

A minister who was present in the cabinet meeting said state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam raised the issue of fielding candidates under political parties’ banners in the local government election. The Prime Minister gave her opinion in the meeting that the parties would draw up their own strategy of picking their candidates for contesting election.

Fisheries and Livestock Minister Sayedul Huq raised the issue of how the candidates would be selected. About this, Sheikh Hasina said boards would be formed like the Awami League parliamentary board for selecting candidates for the union council, upazila council and municipality elections. The constitution would also be changed, if necessary, she added.

The party’s joint general secretary and Member of Parliament Mahbubul Alam Hanif told The Report, “It had been a long-standing demand of the people. The cabinet has taken the decision in a bid to make the demand a reality. Now it will be implemented in the upcoming elections.”

No final decision was taken yet about how the Awami League would nominate the candidates in the local government election, Hanif said. “It will be discussed in the party forum. The decision on how the candidates can be nominated in a better way will be made known later.”

The cabinet meeting sources said the party-based electoral system was hailed by Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Terming it an epoch-making decision, he said, “The long-awaited decision would accelerate the country’s democratic march further. Though the local government was non-partisan earlier, the political parties fielded their own candidates. Now as the legal basis has been put in place, no tricks will now be required anymore.”

When asked about the government decision, former caretaker government adviser Akbar Ali Khan declined to make any comment over phone.

Election Commissioner Mohammad Abdul Mobarak said, “We as an institutional organization are bound to implement whatever law the government enacts. Usually in no country the onus of the local government election is left on the Election Commission. But in our country the Election Commission has to conduct the elections at all levels from the union council members to the President.”

But the Election Commission was not informed of anything from the government about the local government election law and the Election Commission also did not give any opinion, he said.

Ends/ 14, 2015

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