The Election Commission yesterday warned returning officers of stern action for any failure and negligence in performing polls duties.
"We have taken a policy of zero tolerance against failure… We will not hesitate to take stern action against anyone who will not perform polls duties properly,” Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar told the ROs at a day-long briefing at Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital.
"We will not tolerate any negligence," he said in the first session, which was open to journalists.
The EC on November 8 appointed 64 deputy commissioners and two divisional commissioners as ROs for conducting the December 30 polls.
Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said the ROs would be closely monitored to see if any of them fails to deliver. "Your failure will be considered as failure of the commission."
He urged them to work in such a way so that no one can raise questions about the polls.
“We want an acceptable election.” If the role of the ROs is called into question, that of the EC will also be questioned as they are representatives of the EC at the field level, he mentioned.
Addressing the ROs, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said the upcoming election will be held under “a different set-up”.
“In the past, elections were held in the country under presidents and caretaker governments. But this time, it is taking place under a government with parliament in place.
“You cannot compare this election with the 2014 polls as all parties did not take part in that,” he said.
The last parliamentary election was held on January 5, 2014, amid controversy as the BNP, the main opposition in the previous parliament, and most other political parties boycotted the election terming it “farcical and one-sided”.
A total of 153 lawmakers were elected uncontested in the 10th parliament.
The CEC further said, “People want an election in a festive atmosphere. Keep in mind that such atmosphere is not hampered due to your activities.”
Later in a closed-door session with the EC officials, the ROs asked what they should do if a convicted person submits nomination paper.
In reply, commissioner Rafiqul said the RO concerned can cancel the nomination papers of the convicted person if his or her sentence is not stayed by court, according to meeting sources.
The ROs then asked whether a minister would get protocol while taking part in electioneering.
In response, Rafiqul said the ministers would get security, not protocol, during campaigns.
Some of the ROs sought permission to hold meetings with parliamentary candidates ahead of the election.
The EC members then said the commission would send them instructions on it later, said the sources.
NO FURTHER DEFERRAL
Briefing the ROs, Huda said there is no scope for deferring the polls further.
He also asked them to prepare for conducting the polls on December 30.
The election date was shifted from December 23 on Monday. But Jatiya Oikyafront, an alliance of the BNP and several other parties, rejected the revised schedule, saying the polls should have been deferred by a month.
Yesterday, the CEC said the polls cannot be deferred further as a new parliament must be formed by January 29, and that they will need time to announce official results and publish gazette notifications.
Besides, a big number of law enforcers will be busy for Biswa Ijtema to be held in Tongi on January 11, he said.
Talking to this newspaper, Rafiqul Islam, a central leader of the Gonoforum, said an Oikyafront delegation led by Dr Kamal Hossain will meet the CEC today to discuss the election schedule and other issues.
Earlier, he had handed over a letter to the CEC, seeking his appointment for today.
Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader told reporters that the demand for further delaying the polls is “unrealistic and hilarious”.
INSTRUCTIONS TO ROs
In a letter, the EC yesterday directed the ROs to take action against aspirants if they violate the electoral code of conduct by holding rallies or staging showdowns during submission of nomination forms.
A copy of the letter was also sent to the inspector general of police.
While collecting nomination forms, candidacy seekers of different political parties are staging showdowns or bringing out processions with vehicles and motorbikes. This is a violation of the electoral code of conduct, mentioned the letter.
The EC asked the ROs to take necessary action if such violation of the electoral code of conduct takes place during submission of nomination forms by the aspirants, said a joint secretary at the EC, quoting the letter.
The EC instructions came a day after the ruling AL ended sale of its nomination papers on Monday.
Locals in Dhanmondi area said showdowns and processions by AL nomination seekers and their supporters near the party president's Dhanmondi office led to traffic congestion in the area for three days till Monday.
Similarly, showdowns and processions by BNP activists also caused gridlock in the city's Nayapaltan area where BNP nomination aspirants gathered to collect nomination forms.
The sale of BNP nomination forms, which began on Monday, will continue till tomorrow.