October 31, 2008.
That the Election Commission has once again missed its own deadline, this time with regard to the registration of political parties by October 30, does not come as a surprise to us at all. As a matter of fact, in the almost 21 months that have passed since the commission was reconstituted in February 2007, all that the commission has given us are empty words and broken promises. Hence, if serious concerns and apprehensions still remain in the public mind regarding the promised elections, and we believe they certainly do, it is the military-controlled interim government and the Election Commission that are squarely to blame for giving rise to such apprehensions.
Since the launching of the electoral ‘roadmap’ by the Election Commission in July 2007, which itself was a delayed response to growing concerns regarding the interim government’s and the commission’s agenda, the commission has failed to meet the vast majority of its own deadlines. Dialogues with political parties were meant to be completed by the end of last year but those dragged on for many months more and the delimitation of electoral constituencies, which was meant to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2008, is yet incomplete. Only the new voters’ roll, which was sub-contracted out to the army, has been completed roughly on time even though the constituency-wise voters’ rolls have yet not been published and verified. The failure to meet the Thursday deadline for party registration is, therefore, just the latest in a long list of failures for the commission and the likely delay of the announcement of the polls schedule, currently slated for November 2, will be yet another ignominious chapter in the history of this commission. The election commissioners may have at different times tried to fault external factors, and even on some occasions the media, for their many delays; but the fact remains that the bungling of the electoral reform process and the repeated failures to meet roadmap deadlines are faults of the commission’s alone.
Under these circumstance, it is no wonder at all that the people have little faith left in the commission, or on the regime for that matter, and openly question whether they will be able to hold participatory and credible elections before this year is out. However, while the people have every right to feel anxious about our electoral and political future, the current regime and the Election Commission in particular have absolutely no excuses left to delay the general elections any further. Instead of blaming others, the commission must now work overtime to ensure that all necessary actions are taken and all outstanding issues resolved so that proper elections can be held on the government’s announced election date of December 18.
* * * * *
Nurul Kabir is the editor of daily New Age.