12.1 Post-election appraisal provides an opportunity to learn from experience and take measures for improvement so that the goal of holding free and fair elections is better achieved.
12.2 The general elections of June 1996 and 2001were organized by the Election Commission in the context of a unique political experiment initiated by the 13the amendment of the Constitution. The amendment provides for setting up a limited-purpose non-party care-taker government whose principal function is to provide assistance to the Election Commission to hold free and fair elections. The intense political environment of the time subjected every aspect of election management activity of the Election Commission to searching scrutiny and demanding standards of performance. As a result, the views expressed by political parties, voters, local and international poll observers, the press and the media on the quality of the election have been well documented.
12.3 These provided the Election Commission with a fair view of public assessment of the total operation and a sound basis for conducting in-house appraisal of different aspects of election management. The reactions reviewed by the Election Commission ranged from general appraisal of the Election Commission's overall management to specific aspects of the election process. As a result, certain issues have been identified as needing further scrutiny and immediate action.
12.4 A number of by-elections held since then provided the Election Commission with the opportunity to introduce steps for operational improvement : like appointing a substantially large number of security personnel including female Ansars (an auxiliary force) to supplement the existing arrangements for the maintenance of peace and order in and around the polling stations, and the appointment of senior govt. officers from outside the Election Commission Secretariat to work as election observers etc.
Secondly, to expedite disposal of election petitions (which until now are heard by District Judges along with their other judicial functions), Election Tribunals at all the 6 Divisional headquarters have been set up. These Courts are headed by judicial officers of the level of a `District Judge. Their sole and exclusive function is to try election petitions arising out of election disputes. 64 elections petitions were submitted by contestants in the June'96 elections, out of which 6 could be disposed of by the district courts so far. The constitution of exclusive tribunals to deal with elections petitions are expected to expedite the disposal of the pending cases.
Thirdly, the Commission has also taken up in right earnest the issue of improving the voter registration method. Views of political parties, election observers, human rights groups and eminent lawyers etc. have been sought for simplification of the existing registration form and dialogues have been initiated with different interest-groups. A broader review of voter registration in the light of practice in other countries is to be conducted by a subject-matter specialist. The Election Commission proposes to hold a series of workshops for exchange of opinion to help it evolve broader understanding and support for an improved voter registration system.
Fourthly, a working committee has been set up to look into the question of registration of expatriate Bangladeshis as voters. There is considerable public interest in the subject and the issue had received prominence during the last general elections.
Fifthly, the Election Commission has recently completed a review of its project for issue of voter ID cards. The law of the land requires the commission to issue such cards to each voter. The possibility of setting up a computerized voters' data base is also under active consideration.
12.5 The Commission feels that there is need and scope for improvement of the election management system as a whole to reflect intense democratic aspirations of the people. There is also a recognition that a lot can be learnt from the experience of other countries. With that end in view, the Commission sent two study teams recently to some countries in south and south-east Asia. The interaction will continue.
12.6 The Commission has recently constituted an Electoral Reforms Committee to look into possibilities of introducing further reforms. The terms are wide-ranging.