AL, BNP, JP, Jamaat together fielded 130 loan, bill defaulters, forced EC to change electoral laws twice to get them in race; BB to move against those with court protection
Registered political parties including Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party and Jamaat-e-Islami placed on their polls tickets some 130 individuals who are either loan or utility service bill defaulters.
Under pressure from the parties, the caretaker government relaxed the electoral laws twice to allow defaulters to contest the December 29 general election.
Yet, the candidacy seekers in question did not reschedule their debts or outstanding bills, while the organisations did not bother to make sure their nominees are not in default on loans or utility bills.
Of 39 registered political parties, as many as 30 nominated around 90 of their leaders defaulting on loans and over 40 on utility bills. The figures show the parties are still reluctant to let go of the culture of loan defaulting.
At least 10 individuals either defaulting on loans or utility bills filed applications seeking independent candidacy in the upcoming polls.
All of them have been disqualified during the scrutiny of nomination papers.
However, 74 of them have already filed appeal with the Election Commission (EC) challenging the decisions.
Meanwhile, around 50 loan defaulters have been able to qualify as candidates thanks to stay orders on their names being on Bangladesh Bank's (BB) list of defaulters.
BB sources said the central bank is working to have the stays vacated.
Of those ruled out of the running, 23 belong to BNP, 15 to AL, 23 to Jatiya Party, one to Jamaat-e-Islami, 11 to Bikalpadhara Bangladesh and eight to Gono Forum.
Islami Andolon Bangladesh, Workers Party, Liberal Democratic Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Progressive Democratic Party, Zaker Party, Gonotantri Party, Gono Front, National People's Party, Oikyabaddha Nagarik Andolon, Kalyan Party, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Muslim League and Tarikat Federation are among the other parties who tried to field loan or bill defaulters as candidates.
The caretaker administration originally sought to be tough on both loan and bill defaulters. But as the election neared it gradually compromised on its stance, giving in to pressure from the political parties.
On recommendations of the EC, the government in August amended the Representation of People Order (RPO), including a provision that an individual must reschedule his default loan at least six months before filing nomination in the parliamentary polls.
As the provision did not give the loan defaulters the required six months' time before the polls then tentatively scheduled to be held by the year-end, it had meant an end to their bid for election to parliament.
But the provision that was greeted with popular acclamation was relaxed, allowing defaulters to be in the race by rescheduling repayments until 15 days before filing nominations.
Still, the move could not satisfy the political parties. They forced the government to allow rearrangement of debts till seven days before submission of candidacy applications.
Similarly, the RPO provision on utility service bill defaulters too had to be eased.
The August amendment to the RPO said a person shall be disqualified for election and for being a member of parliament if they have failed to pay the telephone, gas, electricity, water or any other bill of any service providing organisation of the government even after being served with a notice of three months or more from the date of submitting nomination paper.
The latest amendment says a person shall be disqualified for election and for being a member of parliament if he fails to pay the utility service bills of the last three months--August, September and October. Whether he has cleared the bills of the preceding months will not be taken into account.
TOUGHER RULES FOR INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY
As many as 190 applications filed by individuals seeking to contest the polls as independent candidates were cancelled mainly for their failure to produce signatures of one percent voters of their constituencies.
The number of applications seeking independent candidacy in the national polls was 391. A good number of them are leaders of different political parties who were denied nominations.
It was however easier for the former lawmakers as they did not need to collect and submit signatures of one percent constituents of their seat.