Bangladesh’s ex-military ruler wants to be president again


Dhaka : As Bangladesh prepares for general elections by this year-end, its former military ruler says he wants to be the president again.

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Former general Hossain Muhammad Ershad is pinning his hopes on Sheikh Hasina-led Grand Alliance of 14 parties winning the parliamentary poll next month.

Ershad, who remains the country’s longest-ruling leader, from 1982 to 1990, till he was deposed, had earlier sought to enter into an understanding with Hasina’s rival, Khaleda Zia, who leads a four-party Islamist alliance.

He has switched sides this time. His Jatiya Party is part of the Hasina-led alliance and has staked claim to 50 of the 300 parliamentary seats.

“I want to be president. I discussed the possibility with the ‘grand alliance’ formed before the forestalled election of January 22, 2007,” he was quoted as saying in New Age newspaper Sunday.

Unlike both Hasina and Zia, however, Ershad wants the December poll to take place under the current state of emergency.

“Criminals will appear again if emergency is lifted,” he warned, talking to news agency.

One of the few issues on which the two women leaders agree is the lifting of the emergency curbs before the polls. The caretaker government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed has promised to consider lifting it partially if the poll atmosphere is conducive.

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Huda said the final poll date could be any day from Dec 27 to 29, and would be announced shortly.

Hasina and Zia agreed to deferment of the earlier date, Dec 18, and the government says it is committed to holding the poll within this year.

An indirect trial of strength between the two alliances took place Saturday in the Bangladesh Bar Council poll.

A pro-Awami League combine won 12 of the 14 positions, leaving two seats to rivals of another front said to be close to Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), The Daily Star newspaper said.

Intense lobbying for party nominations has begun in both alliances.

Hasina was forced to speak to those who have been denied tickets and have been agitating outside her party office.

The aspirants for BNP’s tickets think that this time the party may go for a covert selection process before formal procedure and that has prompted them to lobby hard although the party is yet to invite application for nomination or make a final decision on contesting the polls, New Age reported.

Meanwhile, Dhaka High Court directed the government not to ‘harass’ Hasina by pushing corruption cases against her.

A high court bench intervened for the fourth time asking that the government not press cases against her till Jan 7 next year.

Both Hasina and Zia spent close to a year each in jail on several graft charges.

While Hasina was sent on parole for medical treatment to the US, Zia was released on bail in September, as the government began political dialogue to facilitate the elections.