Upazila polls

Strengthen local govt bodies

Published : 24 Jan 2024 09:01 PM

The Election Commission (EC) plans to hold the upazila elections across the country by April 30 taking into account the SSC examinations beginning in February and the month of holy Ramadan (March). The government local body polls will be held in phases from the last week of April and continue till 31 May.

The EC has already proved its impartiality, boldness and capability by holding free, fair and credible January 7 parliamentary elections. So, the upazila polls are also expected to be held in a free, fair and peaceful manner. 

The ruling Awami League has decided not to field party candidates and so, it will not allocate the party’s poll symbol ‘boat’ in any local government body polls, including the elections to city corporations, municipalities, and upazila parishads. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which boycotted the national election, has now decided not to join the upazila parishad polls under the current government.

In 2015, the government enacted laws on local government bodies which allow registered political parties to nominate candidates in the local body polls. The elections can be held with party symbols or without party symbols under the laws.

However, the AL has returned to the traditional local government electoral system. Since the British period, local government elections had been non-partisan in our country. 

No political party used to field their candidates with their electoral symbols. Therefore, there was no political influence in any local government elections.

Government local body 

polls will be held in phases

 from the last week of April

 and continue till 31 May

However, any political party can field their candidate with its poll symbols according to the existing law. In view of massive violence and hooliganism across the country during the elections to city corporations, municipalities, upazila parishads and union parishads in the past, we think the ruling AL has taken the right decision. 

In the last 10 years, leaders of the AL and its associate organisations got involved in internal feuds that often turned violent centring the local body elections. Following the grassroots leaders’ suggestions, the AL policymakers reconsidered the issue and took the decision not to nominate party candidates in the local government polls. 

Many people, mostly activists of the AL, were killed and many injured in separate clashes between supporters of rival candidates in different districts during the upazila and UP polls. Attacks and exchange of fire over elections became a daily affair while people got panicked over the killing and violence every day. Defying the AL’s repeated warnings, a large number of party leaders filed nominations, contested the polls and clashed with party nominees. When the ruling AL was struggling to resolve the intra-party conflict, clashes and feuds at the party’s grassroots level had intensified over local government polls. 

As a result, grassroots people were disappointed as acts of violence continued to take place almost every day. We noticed that in most cases, the dedicated, honest, and sincere leaders were excluded from the final nomination list while the influential, corrupt and hoodlums with the blessings from local lawmakers obtained the party ticket to contest the local body polls.

 Such attitude towards dedicated, honest and clean-image leaders made the grassroots AL activists frustrated, fuelling them to violate any party decision, which often led to clashes with the rivals. An effective and meaningful local government institutions, especially Upazila Parishad and Union Parishad, has become crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Therefore, all the government and non-government officials and public representatives concerned should work together to make upazila parishads and UPs strong, efficient and accountable. Ensuring transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation in different development works is very urgent to establish good governance in the local government institutions.