‘Democracy will die if people do not vote’
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal yesterday said people have become apathetic towards voting.
"If democracy and its spirit are to be kept alive, voters will have to come to the polling stations," he said during talks with the Islamic Front Bangladesh yesterday afternoon at the Election Commission office.
"If they [voters] refuse to come to the polling station and vote, it will be understood that the country's democracy is sick and will have an unnatural death."
The EC has been holding a series of talks with political parties and a cross section of people, seeking their recommendations on how to ensure a free and fair environment during the upcoming national polls.
Its latest series of dialogues began on July 17 and it has met with 16 parties till yesterday.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD Rab) skipped their meeting with the EC yesterday, while BNP, Bangladesh Kalyan Party and Bangladesh Muslim League did not appear for their dialogues last week.
The CEC yesterday also assured all parties that the commission will leave no stone unturned in the process to ensure a free, fair, acceptable and participatory election.
Earlier, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasod), during its dialogue with the EC, said the commission was not an "arbitration body for political disputes" and it should not be involved in any political debate, including on the issues of participation or boycott.
It further said it believes some foreign diplomats have violated their protocol and "poked their noses" into the ECs work.
"The Election Commission should not favour such violations of diplomatic etiquette," Shirin Akhter, general secretary of Jasod, said.
Awal, in response, said foreign diplomats had met with the EC but did not give any advice regarding elections.
"We have been saying from the beginning that we will continue to urge all parties to join the polls. But we cannot compel anyone."
Jasod advised making EVMs flawless and credible for election, but also to have preparations for the use of ballot papers.
The party also called for the deployment of the armed forces under magistrates if needed.
Jasod and Bangladesh Khelafat Andolon both urged the commission to take measures to curb the huge amount of election expenditure.
Khelafat Andolon demanded the abolition of reserved women's seats in parliament and cancelling a mandatory provision of keeping 33 percent positions in all committees of a party reserved for women.
The party also demanded that EVMs not be used and the presence of a "neutral government".
Islamic Front Bangladesh said EC officials should be appointed as returning officers and holding the election over three days.