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Sunday, June 22, 2008 12:39 AM GMT+06:00
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Published On: 2008-06-21
Polls to 4 city corporations, 9 municipalities Aug 4
EPR relaxed * 21 days for campaign * Nomination filing by July 3 * Last day for withdrawal July 13
Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda shows official announcement of the election schedule to journalists at the EC Secretariat yesterday. Photo: STARThe Election Commission (EC) yesterday announced that polls to four city corporations and nine municipalities will be held on August 4, while the caretaker government relaxed the Emergency Powers Rules (EPR) in respective areas allowing campaign processions and rallies.The city corporations of Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet, and the municipalities of Manikganj Sadar, Chuadanga Sadar, Shariatpur Sadar, Naohata of Rajshahi, Dupchanchiya of Bogra, Sripur of Gazipur, Fulbaria of Mymensingh, Golapganj of Sylhet and Sitakunda of Chittagong will have the elections.According to the poll schedule published in an official gazette, the last date for submitting applications for candidacy is July 3, while July 6 and 7 are scheduled for scrutinising the applications, and the last date for withdrawing candidatures is July 13.The EC announced the election schedule after the home ministry earlier in the day issued a notification relaxing certain provisions of EPR which had slapped a ban on holding rallies and processions during the state of emergency. Asked about the majority of political parties' opposition to holding local government elections before the parliamentary poll, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda said the commission would not do anything that might hamper holding of the stalled ninth parliamentary poll. "The parliamentary election is our top priority. We are now more than confident…holding of local government polls will not have any adverse impact on the holding of parliamentary poll. Rather it will create an election atmosphere in the country," the CEC said during a news briefing in the EC Secretariat yesterday afternoon. Flanked by two election commissioners Muhammed Sohul Hussain and Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hussain, CEC Huda also said opposing the local government polls is a political matter for the opposer."There is no politics in local government elections since those are non-partisan polls," stressed Huda, who has been leading the EC since it was reconstituted by the military backed caretaker government on February 14 last year.The relaxation of EPR aimed at facilitating electioneering, however, has a caveat that the campaign processions and rallies will be allowed only within the electoral areas during the stipulated campaign period in line with already promulgated new rules and code of conduct for city corporation and municipality elections.Candidates will have 21 days, from the day after the last date for withdrawal of candidatures, to carry out their election campaigns.Asked whether the EC is satisfied with the relaxation of EPR, the CEC replied, "Candidates will be allowed to carry out all types of electoral activities. If any body faces restrictions, we will look into the matter, and deal with the government," he assured. About the restrictions imposed on election campaigns by the new electoral rules, the CEC said the rules slapped a strict ban on brining out processions to show off strength at the time of filing applications for candidacy. It also prohibited indiscriminate pasting of posters and scrawling of graffiti on walls, he said. "A candidature will be cancelled if the candidate violates the restrictions," CEC Huda warned. The restrictions have been imposed to reduce election expenditure so honest and competent candidates may get a chance to contest in the polls, the election chief explained. After a break of over a year and a half, the EC is finally about to start holding elections again. The CEC also said the commission could have held the polls a month and a half ago. "We were fully prepared to do it. But the local government ministry could not finish framing the fresh laws for the local government system at that time," he said. The commission is trying to follow the electoral roadmap announced by itself on July 15 last year, which stipulated that local government polls will be held before the parliamentary poll, wherever voter lists will be ready, the CEC added. According to the roadmap, local government elections were supposed to start being held in January of this year."We are embarrassed of our failure to start holding local government elections according to the roadmap. But since we can start it now, why wouldn't we?" the CEC said. A prospective candidate must submit filled out official application forms of 14 pages providing a lot of personal information under the new electoral laws. About the lengthy application forms and the concomitant difficulties of filling those out, the CEC said the commission will organise workshops in respective city corporations and municipalities to assist candidacy seekers in filling out the forms. It already held a workshop in Sylhet City Corporation on June 18, he added. POLL OFFICIALSThrough another official gazette the EC appointed four divisional deputy election commissioners as returning officers (RO) for the respective four city corporations where the August 4 elections will be held. District election officers of the districts adjacent to the four city corporations were appointed as assistant returning officers (ARO) for respective corporations. Additional divisional commissioners (overall) of Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet divisions were appointed as the electoral appellate authorities for respective city corporations for settling disputes and claims during scrutiny of applications for candidacy. The commission also appointed upazila executive officers, popularly known as UNOs, as ROs for six of the nine municipalities, excepting Shariatpur, Manikganj and Chuadanga for which additional deputy commissioners (general) of the respective districts were made ROs. Upazila election officers were appointed as AROs for the six municipalities, while district election officers were appointed as the AROs for Shariatpur, Manikganj and Chuadanga. Deputy commissioners of respective districts were appointed as the electoral appellate authorities for the nine municipalities.
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