Dhaka: The Election Commission (EC) has completed almost all the preparations for the upcoming 12th National Assembly elections. Like other times, this time also the Deputy Administrators (DC) are getting priority in the post of Returning Officers.
EC officials say the polling station list and voter list are ready. Nomination papers have been printed. Nomination paper submission system and election app has been developed. Also on the table is a plan to appoint returning officers. Almost all voting materials starting from ballot boxes have reached the district level. Now only schedule announcement is left.
Although the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) did not specify the date, other election commissioners said that the schedule would be announced this week. In this case, the field administration officers are getting appointed as returning officers. The Election Commissioners have also given similar message on the training program of DC, Superintendent of Police (SP).
Although the entire process of voting was held under the overall supervision of the Election Commission, the agency basically handed over all the responsibilities of polling to the returning officer in the manner prescribed by law. Therefore, the returning officers have all the powers of election.
As per the Representation of the People Act, the EC can appoint 300 returning officers for 300 seats, as well as appoint one person for two or more seats. However, there is no plan to appoint 300 returning officers for 300 seats.
EC sources said that to appoint separate returning officers for all seats, officers of equivalent rank of DCs from other departments of the government will have to be appointed. In this case, since they do not have authority like DCs, they will not be able to control large public works like elections. Therefore, the organization is not bringing forward that discussion, rather DCs are being strongly thought of.
EC Additional Secretary Ashok Kumar Debnath said in this regard, the idea of appointing one returning officer for each seat is not compatible with the culture of this country. Because, the Deputy Commissioner has all the powers in the field, which the officers of other departments do not get. So it is easy for them to lift the election, but it is difficult for others.
The election commissions have also instructed the DCs to prepare accordingly in the recently held election training program for DC-SPs. In the program held on November 10, CEC Kazi Habibul Awal told the DCs that our final demand, the main demand, is that the freedom of the voter to exercise their right to vote should not be disrupted. We want voters to be able to vote. If the Deputy Commissioner is the Returning Officer, he will go inside the polling station and go around. But everyone try to observe it from outside too – whether order is being maintained inside or not.
The CEC also said that especially the key officers are the Superintendent of Police and the DC. But they play a very important role in elections, there should be coordination between them. Show authority and power when the exercise of authority is necessary in the performance of duties.
Election Commissioner Md. Ahsan Habib Khan said, after the announcement of the schedule, you represented us at the field level. You are our trusted representative at the field level. Those of you who will be the Returning Officer will select the Presiding Officer, Assistant Presiding Officer, Polling Officer. They will be trained, you will motivate them.
Election Commissioner Rasheda Sultana said that returning officers will appoint polling officers. Whoever will be the Returning Officer, his job will be to keep an eye on them. You will be very vigilant about how they are going in and working.
Election Commissioner Anichur Rahman said that the election is just around the corner. It may be scheduled within a week. You know how to make an election. We also know how to conduct elections. Any differences or gaps will be discussed or communicated.
The EC has not appointed any officials from other departments of the government as returning officers except for the administration. However, the one-eleven-term ATM Shamsul Huda Commission for the first time appointed EC’s own deputy secretary-level officials in city corporation elections.
Since then, the EC has been appointing its own officers to the posts in various by-elections of the Parliament. So the officials of the organization want the responsibility even if it is limited. However, this demand is not only of the officials, but Sudheejans with various parties have also said in a dialogue with the EC.
KM Nurul Huda Commission appointed 66 returning officers for 300 seats in the 2018 11th National Assembly Elections. At that time 64 Deputy Commissioners and two Divisional Commissioners were given this responsibility.
Besides, there were a total of 581 Assistant Returning Officers. Among them 492 upazila executive officers, 23 assistant commissioners (land), 10 additional district commissioners, eight district election officers, three upazila election officers, one law officer. And the rest were appointed by the EC from other departments of the government.
What is in the law
According to section 7(1) of the Representation of the People Act, the Commission shall appoint a Returning Officer for each constituency for the purpose of electing a member; and any person may be appointed Returning Officer for two or more constituencies.
The Commission may appoint as many Assistant Returning Officers as may be necessary, but no Assistant Returning Officer shall be appointed for more than one constituency.
The Assistant Returning Officer shall assist the Returning Officer in the discharge of his duties and may exercise the powers and perform the duties of the Returning Officer subject to such conditions as may be imposed by the Commission.
The Returning Officer can perform all the functions and matters necessary for the effective conduct of an election in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act and the Rules of Conduct of Elections.
On the other hand, Article 9(1) of the Representation of the People Act states that the grade specified by the Returning Officer for preparing the panel of Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers of the heads of all public or private offices, institutions and organizations of the concerned district through a written notice. And request him to provide a list of employees.
After the panel is prepared, the Returning Officer shall send a copy of the panel to the heads of the offices, institutions and organizations whose officers and employees are included in the list, with a request to place them under the control of the Service Commission for engaging the said officers and employees in the selection process and also a copy of the panel to the Commission. will send
The Returning Officer shall appoint a Presiding Officer from the Panel for each Polling Station and the necessary number of Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers to assist the Presiding Officer. Provided that no person shall be appointed as Presiding Officer, Assistant Presiding Officer or Polling Officer if he is or has been serving under any candidate.
The number of voters in the twelfth parliament election is 11 crore 96 lakh 91 thousand 633 people. And polling stations are 42 thousand 103. In this case, about 1 million polling officers will be required, who will be appointed by the returning officers.
The EC wants to hold elections from the end of December to the first week of January. The Commission has already received the consent of the President to announce the election schedule. The CEC’s address to the nation is likely to be recorded in the next few days, along with the poll schedule.
The 11th National Parliament election was held on December 30, 2018. The first meeting of the Parliament after the election was held on January 30, 2019. So as per the constitution, the five year term of the current parliament will end on 29 January 2024. Voting should be done within ninety days before that. That is, the counting has started on the 12th National Parliament election last November 1. And there is a constitutional obligation to complete the election by January 29.
Bangladesh Time: 1003 hours, November 12, 2023