Monday, May 14, 2007

Should Army be in charge of voter list:

It's an amazing news today that shows how the Army wants to help and control the voter list process. Bangladesh is not a war torn devastated country where Army has to take part in the most election process. Has the civil administration died in Bangladesh? What's Army's interest? They can provide security support but there is no way Army should even get involved in making voter list in Bangladesh. Read this news from Daily Star today:

"The Election Commission (EC) is emphasising the methodology of setting up camps across the country for preparing the voter list with photographs rather than visiting door-to-door.

"I think the task [for preparing the voter list] will be expedited if it is done by setting up camps. We have not yet taken any decision though," Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda told reporters yesterday.

Huda was talking to reporters at the EC Secretariat after a daylong meeting with a delegation of Bangladesh Army and EC consultants to find ways for preparing the voter list.

Asked which procedure--visiting door-to-door or setting up camps and urging people to visit those for being listed as voters--is reasonable, the CEC said he prefers the second one.

Huda said the commission is examining different options of preparing voter list and a decision finalising a methodology will be taken today or tomorrow since time is very short and procurement of various equipment will have to be started soon.

There are 69,000 polling stations that have been used during the local government bodies' elections. "We may establish the camps at these polling stations. It will not require spending of time for them," the CEC said.

"We will examine further because whatever we do, we will have to do it carefully," said Huda, who was made the CEC on February 14 following the resignation of controversial CEC MA Aziz.

In the past, the EC has always prepared voter lists by sending its officials on door-to-door visits.

Earlier in July last year, the then EC led by Aziz initiated a procedure to update the voter list by asking people to visit offices of election officials and local government representatives and include or delete their names rather than by sending its officials on door-to-door visit.

However, the EC was compelled to change its stance amid lukewarm response from the people and severe criticism of the procedure. It then decided to send its staffs to visit door to door to update the voter roll.

The Bangladesh Army delegation and the EC consultants demonstrated three methodologies for preparing the voter list with photographs--fully digital, optical mark reader (OMR), and traditional, CEC Huda said.

Huda did not specify any time frame required for each option. "It is difficult to specify the time frames for the options as the time can be reduced by increasing the number of teams. If we increase the number to 9,000 instead of 8,000, it will speed up the task," he added.

"We are examining the options. Our main objective is to prepare the voter list with photographs within the 18-month time frame. If possible, we will prepare it before the expiration of the timeframe," said the CEC.

Once the option and methodology is decided, the EC will start procuring a huge number of laptops, cameras and other necessary equipment to start the task.

Meanwhile, about amending the electoral ordinance and rules for preparing the voter list with photographs, Election Commissioner Sahul Hossain said they will be amended in time. Asked if the EC will consider the voter list prepared in 2000 in accordance with a High Court verdict, he said the EC will not consider the existing voter list as a completely new list will be prepared.

At a press conference on April 5, the CEC announced the 18-month time frame for preparing the voter list with photographs for holding the ninth parliamentary election.

On April 12, Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed declared in an address to the nation that the ninth parliamentary election will be held before the expiration of 2008".

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