No talks till you reform, Bangladesh politicians told


Dhaka : Bangladesh's election Commission has said it will not talk to political parties on electoral reforms till they affect political reforms, adding a new twist to their ongoing tussle with the military-backed government.

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The parties say they cannot be expected to talk when there is a total ban on their activity. They want at least the indoor activity be allowed.

The Election Commission (EC) that was eager to talk with the political parties even amid the ban on indoor politics, has now taken a stance of waiting for completion of reforms within the parties, The Daily Star said Tuesday.

"Reforms within the political parties are to be completed first. If we invite a political party before the reforms are done, who will represent the party," one of the election commissioners, Muhammed Sohul Hussain told media Monday.

"If we hold any discussion in such a situation, it will be with individuals, not with the parties. So, we will sit in dialogue with them once they complete their reforms," he said.

The EC would take decision considering the political situation after lifting or relaxing the ban on indoor politics, another Election Commissioner, Brig Gen (retd) M. Sakhawat Hossain told The Daily Star.

"Noticing hesitation in some political parties over the intra-party reforms, we are still undecided about who to call and who not to," he said.

The government has kept the door ajar in that it has indicated that it might decide on allowing indoor politics this month, the newspaper said quoting unnamed analysts.

The interim government that took power and called off general elections in January has imposed a national emergency and a blanket ban on all political activity.

It has also triggered a process of "political reforms" that have witnessed rumblings in the mainstream parties with their leaderships challenged.

With both the principal leaders, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia fighting rebellion, media reports have said the interim government is pursuing a "minus-two" strategy of pushing the two former prime ministers out of political arena.

Former military ruler H. M. Ershad, heading the Jatiyo Party, virtually quit the arena last week.

Also initiated, but with limited results, is a process of launching a political party by garnering selective support from the existing ones, making the parties uneasy.

Political analysts think Ershad's announcement will have an effect on Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina-heads of two major political parties BNP and Awami League-to take decision in the wake of the changing political situation.