The Election Commission's (EC) helplessness over the Cumilla City Corporation elections is not a good sign despite having a capacity to exercise immense powers, said Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder in Dhaka on Monday.
"The EC must exercise its powers," he said referring to the recent helpless remark by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal regarding violation of election code of conduct.
The city polls slated for 15 June will be the first election under the EC that was formed early-this year amid refusal by key political opposition BNP. The Kazi Habibul Awal-led EC will be holding the next national elections late-2023. Bangladesh's previous two national elections were marred by boycotts, allegations of vote rigging and other election frauds.
According to political observers, the commission's major challenges include gaining the trust of the political parties, apart from ensuring a free and fair national election in 2023. The analysts have termed the Cumilla polls for the EC as a "litmus test" to the trust-gaining bid.
Recently, the EC directed the ruling Awami League MP AKM Bahauddin to leave Cumilla for violating the code of conduct in the city corporation elections. But the lawmaker from Comilla-6 constituency did not obey it, and continued to campaign for the Awami League-backed candidate.
About the defiance, the CEC said EC has nothing to do if a lawmaker does not listen to them.
But Badiul Alam Majumder said the commission in such cases can take disciplinary action. The EC may reject the candidacy of an individual if it appears that government beneficiaries are working indirectly or directly for them.
"As an independent constitutional body, the commission has the legal power to cancel the candidature of the candidate for whom the Member of Parliament is working," he said.
"The EC has expressed helplessness. Citizens cannot be too optimistic when the commission is not able to exercise their legal powers," added the civil society member.
Referring to EC's accountability to people, Badiul Alam Majumder said that citizens expect EC to show courage and to play a strong role. He said Cumilla elections will hint at the capacity of the commission.
Badiul Alam Majumder said the Member of Parliament is not obeying the Election Commission. If the entire administration, law enforcers, ruling party, oppositions and others try to flout the order of the Election Commission in the national election, then where will the citizens go?