Bangladesh polls by December, but political snags persist


Dhaka : Bangladesh’s Election Commission has said it would hold the long-stalled ninth general election by December, but major political parties refuse to participate until their jailed leaders are released.

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The Election Commission Wednesday gave its assurance on the poll schedule to President Iajuddin Ahmed. It had earlier this week filed an affidavit before the high court giving an undertaking that the December deadline would be met.

Election Commission chief A.T.M. Shamsul Huda told the president that they were confident of having a complete electoral roll by October as 83 percent of the voters had already been registered.

The field level task of voter listing will be complete by the end of June or the first week of July while the final roll with photographs will be ready by the end of September or the first week of October, The Daily Star newspaper said Thursday.

However, the poll panel’s preparations do not solve the larger problem in Bangladesh – the prolonged tussle between the caretaker regime of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed and political parties.

Meant to govern for only 90 days and hold the elections, the regime imposed a national emergency on taking office in January last year and has banned all political activity.

Former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) reiterated Wednesday that it would not participate in any polls till Zia and her political rival, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, were released.

The two former prime ministers, their political associates and Zia’s two sons are in jail facing non-bailable charges in multiple cases of corruption, extortion and misuse of office.

Denying the charges and calling them politically motivated, the two parties say the government wants to keep them in jail and away from politics and get them convicted to disqualify them from contesting the polls.

The country has witnessed a drive against crime and corruption, involving over 200,000 detentions, choking the prisons. Some 200 of these are politicians, officials and businessmen.