EC in no hurry to hold polls as Covid-19 crisis pans out10 May 2020 bdnews24.com
The Election Commission is willing to bide its time and observe how the ongoing coronavirus crisis unfolds across Bangladesh before arranging the pending polls to vacant parliamentary constituencies and Chattogram City Corporation.
Although the commission is running behind schedule, the constitution, nevertheless, allows an additional 90 days to hold an election if it is delayed due to a natural calamity.
The Chattogram City Corporation election along with the by-elections to Bogura-1 and Jashore-6 was set to go ahead in March but were later deferred a week before the scheduled date.
The Bogura and Jashore by-polls were scheduled for April as the 90-day deadline approached to hold the elections to two more seats- Dhaka 5 and Pabna-4 which fell vacant after the deaths of its incumbents.
"The 90-day window for fresh elections has passed but now we are in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, which is a natural disaster. The constitution and the election law allows the chief election commissioner an additional 90 days to arrange polls under such circumstances. Therefore, we're not in any rush," Election Commissioner Md Rafiqul Islam told bdnews24.com. The commission will chalk out plans for the elections once the situation returns to normal, according to Rafiqul.
But even if the elections don't transpire in the next three months, the president will put the matter before the Supreme Court to make an exception, he said.
Section 123 of the Constitution states that an election to fill the seat of a member of parliament which falls vacant for any reason other than the dissolution of parliament must be held within 90 days of the vacancy.
However, it makes an exception where, in the opinion of the chief election commissioner, it is not possible to hold the polls within that period because of an act of God. In such circumstances, the election must then be held within 90 days from the end of the previous deadline.
Bangladesh reported its first coronavirus cases on Mar 8 and the disease has since sickened more than 13,000 people and killed 206. But as tensions over the outbreak began to mount, the EC hurriedly held the by-polls to Dhaka-10, Gaibandha-3 and Bagerhat-4 on Mar 21 despite being warned by the DGHS about the risks of spreading the pathogen further in the process.
The elections, however, saw a low turnout of voters.
Meanwhile, the elections to the Chattogram City Corporation and the Bogura-1 and Jashore-6 constituencies were initially due on Mar 29 but were later postponed by the EC.
The Bogura-1 seat fell vacant on Jan 18 after the death of its previous incumbent, Abdul Mannan. The Jashore-6 was vacated after the death of MP Ismat Ara Sadek on Jan 21.
Under the Constitution, the EC had to stage the by-polls by April and the Chattogram city elections by July.
Amid the coronavirus crisis, however, two parliamentary constituencies, Pabna-4 and Dhaka-5, became vacant after the deaths of former land minister Shamsur Rahman Sharif Dilu on Apr 2 and Habibur Rahman Mollah on May 6, respectively. The EC must now also take these two empty seats into account in its plans for the pending elections.