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02nd-Apr-2016

Election Commission is not to hold elections to kill people

By Editorial Desk


Election to 639 Union Parishads in the second phase of the UP polls like the first phase passed off on Thursday amidst violence and irregularities leaving at least 11 people dead and several hundreds wounded in clashes and firing throughout the country.
The violence even did not spare a 10-year schoolboy at Keranigonj in the outskirt of the capital highlighting how brutal and heartless the UP elections made a section of people to capture power and dominate local politics.
Most election centers in the country yesterday saw the ruthless incidents of chase and counter-chase, casting of fake votes, ballot-stuffing and taking control of polling stations. Supporters of ruling Awami League chairmen candidates mostly resorted to killing and violence.
Latest results showed 403 chairmen of the ruling party won the polls as against 59 for BNP. In earlier election 467 ruling party chairmen won while BNP candidates won 49.  
The nation watched the first phase of UP election last month as it passed by amidst similar violence and deaths and hoped the second phase would be peaceful. The government would take enough steps to avoid fresh violence and deaths.
But anarchy reigned in again raising question why such elections are being repeatedly held by the government, which is working as death traps to the local people. In our view the Election Commission (EC) should not hold election that kills people instead of allowing people to freely elect their representative for the local bodies.
It appears that the EC is holding the polls that the government is pressing for. But the fact is that if the EC can't ensure a peaceful election because of lawlessness and violence let lose by the ruling party candidates it should tell the government that it can't hold the polls. Who should take the blame for killing of all such innocent people?  
It is true that the EC can't fight violence at local level if police and local administration don't play the neutral role to make the polls free and fair and protected from violence that may come from any quarter. So it can only hold the polls only if the government and the candidates make the pledge that they would maintain peace.
The EC can stop any election if candidates and the government machinery don't cooperate to hold the election freely and peacefully. As an independent body with adequate power to screen candidates and demand discipline in the electioneering process, it can also decide on the eligibility of candidates if they indulge in violence.
It appears that the EC is remaining inactive as a spectator to highly flawed elections without using its influence to salvage the system from being permanently ruined. Rather the Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin's remarks that the second phase of  UP election passed off well except some stray incidents making it questionable is highly regrettable. The EC can't ignore its moral guilt.
In the first-phase of the election last month at least 22 people lost their lives and the toll appeared 12 this time. Many fear that it may further grow in post-election violence. What appears highly sensitive is that the party based UP elections have turned the local politics volatile threatening to destroy peaceful social fabrics.
The local party base of ruling party Awami League is facing the biggest split in fights between government nominated chairman candidates and rivals within the party.  Opposition party candidates are mainly kept out of fights knowing that they have no protection.
Our view is clear it is not the responsibility of the Election Commission to fight violence, it simply cannot. If others including the candidates cannot assure peace at the election time, the Chief Election Commissioner has no option but to stop the elections. The Election Commission is responsible for fair elections only if others stop violence to stop voters to take part in the elections. Otherwise, the Election Commission should not issue certificates to legitimise the rigged elections.