The next national election must be held by 29 January, in accordance with the constitution, to avert a potential political volatility akin to anarchy in the country, Election Commissioner Md Alamgir has said.
"The election must take place by 29 January, by any means necessary. Failure to do so would create a constitutional gap leading to a state of anarchy, which the Election Commission cannot allow," said the commissioner during a media briefing at Nirbachan Bhaban on Tuesday.
Alamgir made the observation in response to a question from reporters about whether the EC thinks the political atmosphere is conducive enough to hold the national election on time.
In reaction to EC Alamgir's statement, former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain told The Business Standard that it will be a constitutional violation by the commission if it fails to hold the election within the time in line with the constitution – by 29 January.
"However, why will there be any anarchy? I don't know why EC Alamgir used such a word. Anarchy is a vast thing and a serious issue. The commissioner should clarify it," he said.
At the briefing, EC Alamgir acknowledged that there is tension among political parties. "However, none [parties] said they don't want the election to be held.
"We will try our best to create an election-friendly environment although it is not the commission's responsibility."
Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Anisur Rahman on Tuesday told TBS, "We don't have enough time to have dialogue with any political party, we have had enough dialogues."
He said the commission had dialogues with some parties already and several invitations were sent to those who didn't take part. "Letters were sent to them but they didn't respond."
Still, if any party wants dialogue now, the commission's doors are always open, EC Anisur said.
The BNP is refusing to take part in the upcoming polls and demanding the resignation of the government and dissolution of the parliament.
Speaking in regards to foreign election observers, Md Alamgir at the briefing said, "Any organisation from any country is welcome to apply to observe our election. If approved by the EC and forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs, there would be no legal impediments to their participation."
Furthermore, he said the Election Commission extends invitations to member countries of the Forum Election Management Bodies of South Asia (FEMBOSA), with a special emphasis on neighbouring nations.
"In addition to FEMBOSA countries, discussions were held about inviting SAARC nations [Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka]. Invitation letters will be dispatched to them shortly," the election commissioner said.
Agreeing with EC Alamgir, former election commissioner Sakhawat Hossain told TBS that the EC can invite anyone to observe elections.
"But for credibility and acceptance, the organisation must have the international standard and recognition. The EU has such acceptance worldwide."
Meanwhile, a US pre-election monitoring is expected to visit Bangladesh from 7-13 October. However, the EU informed that their full-fledged election observer team will not come to Bangladesh for the upcoming national polls.
In another major development, the US on Friday enforced visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals – who and their immediate family members can be barred from entering the US.
Amended guidelines for observers
The Election Commission has released revised guidelines for international observers, requiring them to possess experience in governance, elections, democracy, peacebuilding, and human rights.
The applicant organisation should produce evidence of registration with the relevant authority of its own country.
The commission will reject applications for observer accreditation from individuals with prior convictions related to electoral offences, fraud, or dishonesty.
International election observers are required to submit their election observation reports within 30 days from the polling day to the secretary of the EC Secretariat.
The reports should be prepared based on pre-poll, poll-day and post-poll observations, according to the Election Commission's policy, according to the guideline.
150 more orgs apply
More than 150 local non-governmental organisations applied for registration as election observers on Tuesday.
However, the list is not complete yet, said Election Commission Public Relations Assistant Director Asadul Haque.
Previously, the EC registered 66 local organisations as observers ahead of the upcoming national elections.
Due to the lack of local observer organisations, the Election Commission called for applications for registration again. The deadline for submitting this application was 24 September.
On 8 August, the Election Commission (EC) selected 68 local institutions as election observers out of the 199 who applied to get registered to monitor the upcoming national election. Of them 66 got registration.
EC allows motorcycles for journos
Journalists can use motorcycles to collect news on the day of the national election upon approval from either the Election Commission Secretariat or the returning officer of the respective constituency three days before the polling day.
The commission has amended the relevant policy in this regard.
On 12 April, EC published its policy regarding the media coverage of upcoming elections, barring journalists and media personnel from using motorcycles on Election Day.
The policy also sought to restrict journalists from live telecasts inside the polling stations and during vote counting.