Monday, January 22, 2007

Chief Election Commissioner M. A. Aziz resigns

Poll set for today officially cancelled

Justice MA Aziz resigned from the post of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) yesterday citing a major political alliance's lack of confidence in him and to avert further political unrest in the country. Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat issued a notification yesterday officially cancelling holding of the ninth parliamentary election today.

Aziz's departure ends his highly controversial 21-month stint in the office, during which he was forced to go on a leave of absence on November 22 after repeated demands for his resignation from Awami League (AL)-led alliance for failing to prepare a correct and updated voter list. His resignation follows the newly appointed caretaker government's announcement that reconstituting the problem-ridden EC is its top priority so that it can proceed with other electoral reforms, namely updating the voter list, and institutionalising the system of voter ID cards and transparent ballot boxes.

Law Adviser Mainul Hosein told on Saturday that the caretaker government decided to appoint a new CEC within a couple of days and that the new CEC will be selected from the bureaucracy. Aziz personally delivered his letter of resignation to President Iajuddin Ahmed at Bangabhaban yesterday afternoon, which the president accepted. In a statement released to the media on his behalf by his personal assistant, he said that if he continue in the post of CEC this may give certain political parties the opportunity to create once again new obstacles in the democratic process of holding national elections and would be seriously prejudicial to the interest of the country."

The biggest allegations against Aziz were that he failed to prepare a correct voter list and violated a High Court directive by creating a fresh voter list, which cost the taxpayer at least Tk 60 crore. Aziz assumed the office of CEC on May 23, 2005, during BNP-led alliance government's regime, and got mired in controversy by preparing a fresh voter list ignoring the High Court directive. Along with major political parties, election experts, different professional organisations and civil society personalities also demanded reconstitution of the EC for holding a free and fair election. Foreign diplomats also started speaking against the Aziz-led EC saying the people had lost confidence in the commission. But, President Iajuddin opted not to reconstitute the EC and instead he sent two commissioners on leave and appointed two new, even more controversial, commissioners compounding an already complex crisis.


An EC Secretariat notification released yesterday under section 21 of the General Clauses Act 1897, cancelled all its previous notifications in relation to the election that was scheduled for today.It said the election will not take place as the president believed it could not take place on schedule, and added, "In light of internal disturbances that might endanger the economic life the president promulgated a state of emergency under Article 141A(1) of the constitution."The notification further said all activities and measures taken under proscribed notifications will be considered legally null and void.