The announcement by the Election Commission that the 11th parliamentary election will be held on December 23 has brought to the fore the uphill task ahead of the Election Commission. The EC can exercise the immense power it now wields to make sure that the upcoming election is free, fair and participatory. The announcement, in the backdrop of major contentions from the opposition remaining unresolved, means that the EC has an immense responsibility to ensure a level playing field, meaning equal opportunity for all parties and candidates.
The condition for such a congenial atmosphere now depends on how diligently the EC carries out its role and enforces the electoral code of conduct which comes into place as soon as an election schedule is announced.
The promises that the CEC has made must be kept and the executive must unconditionally honour and support this body. It is the constitutional and collective responsibility of the state to ensure a free and fair election.
The CEC has promised that all parties and candidates will get equal opportunity for electioneering. The law enforcers will be instructed to refrain from harassing or filing cases against political leaders, candidates and agents. In the wake of indiscriminate, random arrests of individuals in recent days, we hope the EC will demonstrate its sincerity through actions and not mere words.
The EC is now both empowered and obligated by the Constitution and electoral laws to play a very important role at this time. It must show its sincerity in making sure a congenial, healthy atmosphere is maintained before, during and after the polls. This will mean holding law enforcers accountable, ensuring that returning officers and polling officials are allowed to do their jobs and voters can cast their vote without influence or intimidation. A free and fair election is the lifeblood of a democracy. The people of this country are hoping for a credible election. The EC must therefore use all the powers it is equipped with to uphold that leap of faith.