Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has expressed surprise at the draft of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 2020, according to a press release.
The draft has abolished the direct power to cancel a candidate's candidature under Section 91 of the Representation of the People Order (RPO), 1972, which was vested to the Election Commission (EC).
It is a suicidal attempt from the EC in a situation when the crisis and mistrust in elections are growing among the people, it reads.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, said, "According to subsections 1 and 2 of Section 91E of the RPO, 1972, the EC has the direct power to investigate and reject the candidature of any candidate if any allegation is made against him," according to the statement.
No matter what the EC explains about removing this power now, it is clear that this step is a futile attempt to make the commission completely ineffective, he said.
TIB executive director said, now, it is their moral and constitutional responsibility to realise the level of acceptance of the commission by the people.
"We do not understand why the RPO, 1972 ─ a historical document which is a unique reminder of Bangladesh's independence ─ needs to be changed without any logical reason," he said in the statement.
Iftekharuzzaman continued, "The EC has probably forgotten that it is supposed to be an independent constitutional body, not obedient to anyone."
According to TIB, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the EC to change various posts and titles of local government bodies. So, TIB asks the EC to consider how it is capable and if there is any moral ground to prepare the draft of the Local Government Institution Election Act-2020, and whether or not it is going beyond its duties.
Iftekharuzzaman asked, "Will the new law make a qualitative change in the voter turnout, the electoral environment, and above all the crisis of public confidence in the national and local government bodies that have already held elections under the commission?"
If not, it is not clear what is the reason for such a new law, he said.
The EC should not tarnish the name "Election Commission" anymore and should voluntarily step down realising the confidence crisis that has already arisen among the people, said the TIB executive director.
The RPO, 1972, has an explicit provision for registering political parties. Despite a clear provision in the RPO, the drafting of the "Registration of Political Parties Act-2020" is questionable, reads the press statement.
In the overall consideration, the EC is not ensuring democracy and the people's right to vote. Instead, it is a tool to implement a particular party's political agenda. But this is an embarrassment for the commission as a constitutional institution, the statement adds.
If a separate Political Party Registration Act needs to be enacted, it is necessary to accept all stakeholders' views, including experts in the specific field, TIB opines.