Why October 27 is significant in terms of the Constitution?

by Barrister Harun ur Rashid | October 27, 2013 4:13 am

As per Bangladesh Constitution, October 27 starts the period of 90 days within which the tenth parliamentary election will be held under Article 123.2 (,b). It states that if parliament is not dissolved, the parliamentary election will be within 90 days. That means from October 27 the clock starts ticking for holding the next parliamentary election.

Article 126 states that “It shall be the duty of all executive authorities to assist the Election Commission in the discharge of its functions”.

The above two Articles of the Constitution, according to many constitutional experts, means the following:

From October 27, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet will have the role of an interim government and they cannot take any policy decisions but will discharge routine work only. No foreign visit may take place and no agreement can be signed with the foreign agencies.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers and MPs cannot spend government funds to conduct election campaign and hold meetings. They must spend money from party funds.

Since the Election Commission comes into picture from October 27, some analysts have questioned the legality of the sitting of the parliament until November 7th reportedly keeping in the dark of the Election Commission and the sitting of the current parliament needs to be ceased because the period of 90 days from October 27 is the time to de devoted for preparation of the election of the next parliament.

The practice of only routine work by the interim government during the election period is strictly observed by other countries such as India and Australia. Both countries have rules in place what the interim government can do or cannot do.

The Indian Election Commission has formulated rules of conduct what the Prime Minister, ministers and MPs can do or not during the election period. In 1979 India’s President Sanjiva Reddy issued an presidential order/decree prohibiting not to do any policy work other than routine duties by the interim government. The validity of the decree was challenged before the

Court but the court upheld its validity.

In Australia, the Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet issued in 2010 the “Guidance of Caretaker conventions” for the interim government and the reportedly the Guidance was amended further in 2013.

The Chief Election Commissioner under the Constitution is in charge of the country to conduct the parliamentary election and all executive authorities come under the Election Commission to assist in holding the election.

The Representation of People’s Order (RPO) as amended has brought to create an environment for better election management creating a level-playing field, reducing use of muscle power and reducing expenditure for election by candidates. It also formulated a Code of Conduct Rule.

Some of the rules of conduct are as follows:

No printing poster bigger than prescribed by the Commission

Prohibition of printing poster more than one colour

Prohibition of erection of arches, gates and any kind of barricades

Prohibition of entertaining electors in any manner

Prohibition of hiring transport for electors

Prohibition of using ink or painting in any manner for advertising or campaigning

Forbidding use of provocative language against opponent or any group

Forbidding use of worshipping places for campaign

Forbidding use of government, semi-government staff or any equipment

Another rule is that instantaneous announcement of polling counting for candidates at a local station and handing over the result sheet to the polling agents in the counting and recording process.

The Chief Election Commissioner is virtually the most powerful person under the Constitution during the 90 days period and his responsibility to conduct a free and fair election acceptable to all parties. Many legal experts say that the Chief Election Commissioner on behalf of the Election Commission should advise the Prime Minister to trim her cabinet and to do only routine work.

We may be mindful of the fact that if a major party, such as AL or BNP, does not participate in the parliamentary election, at least one third of eligible voters (AL has at least on average 37% of the popular vote while BNP has at least on average 33% of the popular vote) cannot exercise their basic democratic right of franchise in the election.

Consequently such parliamentary election will arguably be considered as unconstitutional as it is contrary to Article 7 of the Constitution that states that all powers of the Republic of Bangladesh vests in the people and huge sizable voters cannot be denied the right to vote in the elections.

Given the above background, it is heartening to note that on 26th October, the Prime Minister took a significant step in telephoning the Leader of the Opposition and the Chairperson of BNP Begum Khaleda Zia in the evening and had nearly 40 minutes talks. The direct phone talks have hopefully opened up the possibility of resolving the issue of the type of poll-time interim government and analysts expect that both have to compromise their positions to resolve the dangerous political crisis for the country.

Concluding remarks:

It cannot be denied that our politicians have contributed a lot to the welfare of people and it is admitted that most persons who enter politics are motivated by their desire to dedicate their lives for the good of the people.

Since 1991 Bangladesh has an impressive record of achievements in generating increased income for the people in rural areas and, also in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, women education, women empowerment and reduction of maternal mortality and children during the time of both BNP and AL governments. It is a continuing process and Bangladesh will attain a middle-income country by 2021 if energy, infrastructure, capacity building of workers are adequately addressed in an environment of political stability.

There is a pressure from within and outside to hold free, credible and inclusive parliamentary election and in politics nothing is impossible and in that context, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will hopefully resolve their difference on the type of the poll-time interim government so that the Election Commission can hold a credible, fair and inclusive parliamentary election to fulfill the wishes and aspirations of the people in the country.

Source URL: https://priyoaustralia.com.au/articles/2013/why-october-27-is-significant-in-terms-of-the-constitution/