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As President Hamid signs EC formation law, wait for search committee begins

With the passage of the ‘Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners Appointment Act’, the political arena in Bangladesh is eagerly waiting to see who will recommend names for the next commission.

The president signed the law on Saturday, said Md Tarique Mahmud, a spokesman for the Parliament Secretariat. The government will now publish a gazette on the new law, and then another on the search committee.

Lawmakers passed the bill on Thursday amid widespread discussions fuelled by a renewed call from political parties for a legislative framework on the appointment of election commissioners during talks with the president.

The current Election Commission, led by Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda, will run its term on Feb 14, 2022. The president opened talks with registered political parties to discuss their views on the formation of a new Election Commission.

In the absence of a law, the power to appoint election commissioners was vested in the president in line with the Constitution.

Late president Zillur Rahman had formed the previous Election Commission by selecting a committee to shortlist names of possible candidates for the posts of the election commissioners and their chief.

Hamid had followed suit the next time to appoint CEC Huda and the commissioners from the names recommended by the search committee.

Some parties, including the BNP, stayed away from the talks this time, saying they did not believe the meetings would make any difference. They criticised the new law as “the same old thing in a new cover”.

The government had initially said it would not be possible to enact a new law before the formation of the next EC, but it finally changed its view and fast-tracked the passage of the bill.

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The new law stipulates the assembling of the six-member search committee within 15 working days, departing from the 10 days mentioned in the draft of the bill.

It also mandates the inclusion of a woman among two eminent citizens in the president-nominated search committee.

An Appellate Division judge, nominated by the chief justice, will head the committee. The chief justice will also nominate a High Court judge as a member.

The other members will be the comptroller and auditor general and the chairman of the Public Service Commission.

Three members will be enough to make a quorum. The Cabinet Division will provide the committee with secretarial assistance.

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