EC Brings in Poll Monitoring Restrictions
Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Election monitors will no longer be allowed to stay in polling centres for the entire period of voting, nor be permitted to enter the area where voters mark their ballot paper.

The election commission has however extended the registration validity of local poll monitoring organisations from one year to five year.

Speaking to bdnews24.com on Tuesday, election commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain explained the changes brought about to the 'Election Monitoring Regulations' which came into force on Aug 3.

"A number of changes have been brought in by the regulation to develop the quality of local monitoring organisations. The changes have been brought about based on reports and analysis of activities of poll monitoring organisations during the ninth National Parliament, Upazila council, City Corporation, by-election and a number of other polls," he said.

"Just going to the poll area and submitting a report after returning back is not necessarily fulfilling their objective. Addressing this issue, the amended regulation contains guidance on the way they should monitor, what should be emphasised and how the report should be submitted."

According to the regulation, organisations that work to establish democracy, good governance and human rights and those who provide information to people in a bid to create awareness for a free and fair poll can apply for registration as poll monitors.

Groups or partnerships of a number of organisations will be treated as one organisation.

Hussain went onto say that every monitoring organisation can employ any number of five-member roaming teams to monitor the polls. The monitors will be able to stay at the poll centres for a limited amount of time and oversee the polls.

However, the amended regulation does not allow the employment of full-time booth-based monitors, and no longer permits entry of inspectors into the voting area.

The election commissioner went on to say that this rule is applicable to both domestic and international poll monitoring organisations.

Hussain continued, "We will be monitoring whether the poll inspectors are keeping in line with the regulation. We will force the inspectors to withdraw if they violate the regulation and if the violation charges are proved then we will cancel the registration of the organisation."

However, the amended regulation made no changes in the qualification needed to be a monitor.

Anyone who is above 25 years of age, has passed Secondary School Certificate or equivalent examination and with no personal involvement with political parties or the contenders can become a monitor.

It also said that the registration of monitoring organisations will remain valid for five years from the date of registration, unless it is cancelled earlier for any reason.

Upazila or a metropolitan area under the jurisdiction of a police station or constituencies will be regarded as a unit for deployment of poll monitors. Multiple organisations will not be permitted to inspect the same unit.

Every monitoring agency can send one representative to the vote-counting room of their allocated poll centres and to the returning officer's office during compilation of results. However, the names of the inspectors will have to be submitted on the morning of the poll day to the presiding and returning official.

The inspector will not be allowed to leave the room during the count. However, if the person has to leave the room for some unavoidable circumstances, he or she will not be allowed to re-enter. The regulation also says that the inspector will have to be a resident or voter in the poll area.

Publicity director and the person in charge of the election commission secretariat Swapan Kumar Bhaumik told bdnews24.com: 'Hundreds of monitoring organisations had applied for registration before the ninth parliamentary elections. The EC analysed their applications and allowed 138 organisations to register."

He pointed out that the validity of registration of these organisations expired last year.

"Till then nearly 600 monitoring organisations have applied for registration. Out of them the EC has nominated 315 organisations. The applications of the nominees will be sent to the commission meeting where the final decision will be taken."

He added that the EC will call for registration applications before the local government and national elections.

Although poll reports should be sumitted within a month of the voting, six monitoring organisations have yet not provided reports of their monitoring of the Chittagong City Corporation.

Bhaumik told bdnews24.com, nine local poll monitoring organisations inspected the CCC polls. Of them, Broti, Jatiya Nirbachon Porjobekhok Parishad and Adhikar have submitted their reports.

Web Foundation, Democracy watch, Ain Shohaiota Kendra (ASAK), Bangladesh Manobadhikar Commission, Khan Foundation and Institute of Environment and Development (IED) are yet to turn in their reports.

Letters have been sent to the six organisations asking them to submit the reports to the chief election commissioner by Aug 12.

Steps will be taken against the organisations if they fail, added Bhaumik.

Source: bdnews24.com

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