The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday (Nov 15) set Jan 7, 2024 for the 12th parliamentary election. The voting of the 12th Jatiyo Sangsad elections will be held in 300 constituencies across the country on Jan 7, 2024, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal said while announcing the election schedule in an address to the nation on state-run television and radio. The CEC said the last date for submission of nomination papers is Nov 30 and the scrutiny of nomination papers will be held between Dec 1 and 4. The deadline for withdrawal of candidature is Dec 17, he added. The CEC's around 15-minute speech was broadcast simultaneously on Bangladesh Television (BTV) and Bangladesh Betar.
The candidates could appeal against the Returning Officers' (ROs) decisions between Dec 6 and 15, Awal said, adding, the ROs will distribute election symbols among aspirant candidates on Dec 18 and the candidates could conduct their electoral campaigns from Dec 18 to 8 a.m. on Jan 5.
The EC has already finalized the appointment of 66 ROs and 592 Assistant Returning Officers (AROs), the CEC said.
Noting that there is necessity to make the electoral process easy and transparent, he said, apart from updating the laws and regulations, the EC has recently introduced two apps to facilitate the aspirant candidates to submit nomination papers online to ensure overall transparency and simplification of the electoral process.
Before announcing the election schedule, the EC held a meeting at the commission at 5 p.m. to fix election date.
"Since we took charge of the commission, we have held more than thousands of elections including 16 by-polls in the last 20 months," the CEC said.
The commission organized dialogues and view-exchange meeting with all interested political parties, intellectuals, educationists, civil society, senior journalists and election experts and listened their opinions and suggestions, he said, adding that the EC also explained its stance to them.
"We have invited all registered reluctant political parties several times to join the dialogues. But they declined the invitation," Awal said.
In the Article 123 (3) (Ka) of the Bangladesh Constitution, there is a clear directive to hold the JS polls within 90 days prior to the end of the current tenure of the parliament, he said, adding that the EC accomplishes the directive with the constitutional obligations with help of the executive division officials of the government and the law enforcement agencies.
The government has repeatedly expressed its clear commitment to make the upcoming parliamentary elections free, fair, impartial, participatory and peaceful, the CEC said, adding that the EC will also discharge its duties with honesty, integrity and sincerity to the best of its ability by taking all necessary assistance from the government to make the upcoming JS polls free, fair and peaceful.
Elections can be fair, free, impartial and participatory only with cooperation and participation of all concerned following the proper process, Awal said, adding that if the political parties, being imbued with the democratic spirit, contest in the polls effectively by nominating candidates, balance is established at the poling centres and the elections become more fair and meaningful.
All candidates and political parties to take part in the elections must follow the electoral code of conduct, he said, adding that all officials engaged in electoral duties must also perform their duties with honesty and devotion by properly understanding, upholding and applying the laws and regulations.
The law enforcement agencies have to ensure the overall security of the candidates, voters, election officials and the general public including the surrounding law and order of the polling stations, the CEC said.
Fake votes, vote rigging, ballot rigging, exchange of money and possible use of muscle power can influence the elections, he said and urged the people to resist these collectively at any cost.
Requesting all the political parties to find amicable solutions avoiding conflict and violence, the CEC said, "I request the people to overcome all worries, anxieties and discomforts and fearlessly come to the polling stations in a joyful atmosphere and exercise their voting right freely".
The EC will always welcome the spontaneous participation and contest of all parties in elections, he said, adding that reaching consensus and resolution through dialogue avoiding mutual revenge and mistrust are not impossible.
"Absolute tolerance, mutual trust and solidarity are the essential parameters for a sustainable and stable democracy," the CEC said.
The EC has almost completed all the preparations to hold the 12th JS polls, he said, adding that voter list has already been updated and demarcation of constituencies has been completed.
Currently, the total number of voters in the country are about 11,97,00,000 and the number of polling centres is around 42,000 with a total of 2,62,000 booths, Awal said.
Since transparency or visibility helps ensure the fairness and impartiality of elections, the CEC said the role of the media and election observers is crucial in this regard.
"Therefore, we sincerely seek the cooperation of domestic and foreign media and observers," he added.
Fair and neutral elections can be ensured through the transparency by making the voting process visible as far as possible through the responsible and objective reporting with the appropriate use of digital technology, Awal said, adding that the commission will extend sincere support and cooperation to ensure press freedom for objective journalism.
However, there will efforts to prevent any attempt to influence the electoral process and polls by broadcasting false and fabricated information, he said.
Urging the officials engaged in election process to perform their duties with utmost sincerity, honesty and neutrality, following the electoral laws and regulations, the CEC said, "We believe that the upcoming 12th JS elections will be free, impartial, participatory and peaceful with the responsible behavior and role of all concerned from their respective positions. The polls will be credible and admirable at home and abroad."
"We wish for the sincere participation and active cooperation from all people, including political parties and contesting candidates, in the election process," Awal said.