It has been a long and arduous process. On Dec.18 last year President Abdul Hamid initiated consultations with the registered political parties on the formation of a new Election Commission. By the time he wrapped up the process he had met with the representatives of 31 parties for over a month. The first party to come to the Bangabhaban was Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by its chairperson Khaleda Zia. The president then formed a six-member search committee, headed by Appellate Division judge Syed Mahmud Hossain, to help him find out a non-partisan and competent person to head the under-formation five-member EC. The committee was tasked also to recommend names as the Election Commissioners.
The formation of the search committee was itself a daunting task. It was a relief for Bangabhaban when even the BNP accepted the members of the search committee and put faith on them. The search committee too had a tall task to perform. Besides asking for names from the political parties the search committee held discussions with eminent personalities of the country who are largely seen as non-partisan. From more than 160 names received from the political parties the committee short listed 20 and then refined it further to 10 before submission of the names to the president. On Feb. 6, Monday the president formally announced the five-member EC with ex-secretary and freedom fighter KM Nurul Huda as the chief election commissioner (CEC) for a five-year term.
The president’s choices for four other election commissioners former secretary Rafiqul Islam, former additional secretary Mahbub Talukder, former district and sessions judge of Rajshahi Kabita Khanam and Brig Gen (Retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury.
A key task of the new EC will be to hold the next general election due to be held in 2019.
Now that the President (the chief executive of the country) has done his job, it will be up to the political parties to honour him. The new CEC and the four other members have come through much scrutiny. It will be fair to accept that the president has been fair throughout the process. The EC chosen by him on the basis of the names suggested by the non-partisan search committee could not have been better. The commission has been packed with persons of knowledge and experience and it is a good mix of competent individuals drawn from the administration and judiciary. In appointing the new EC the president, it seems, has kept people’s expectations high on his mind. He knows that he has a critical job in his hand and he must deliver as fairly as possible. Because much of what happens to our parliamentary democracy depends on how the new EC performs.
For the new EC to do well in carrying out its responsibilities it needs cooperation from all political parties. The political parties are expected to extend their cooperation to the new EC as the body has been formed on the basis of recommendations from them. The EC, an official said, has reflected the suggestions of the political parties.
In order to ensure that the EC functions with competence and utter neutrality, it first needs to remain above controversy. The political parties should let the new CEC and other commissioners to settle down to their work. They should adopt a wait-and-see policy in regard to the credibility of the new EC officials. Since the new EC has been appointed by the president through a transparent process there is hardly anything to complain about. Still, there may be some reservations from some quarters. A wise move from the doubters and critics should be not to rush through action whatever it may be.
The new comers deserve support from the political parties to deliver.