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Bangladesh: Election Related Confusion Mounting

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By N J Thakuria *

Political crisis and confusion galore are mounting in Bangladesh over the next general election, which must be completed between October 25, 2013 and January 24, 2014. Before the fiver-year term of the present Awami League led coalition government is over by December 2013, it has to pave way for handing over the political power to a new regime elected by the millions of voters in the populous country.

With the 15th amendment of Bangladesh Constitution in June 2011, the ruling Sheikh Hasina Wajed government is sitting pretty to conduct the polls to form the next Parliament. Prior to the amendment, it was necessary for the government in Dhaka to resign and form a non-party interim government to run the national election.

The Prime Minister Hasina has made it clear in many occasions that she would not go for a caretaker government and declared that the forthcoming 10th national election would be held under her Awami League led incumbent government as the Constitutional amendment had already scrapped the provision for a caretaker or interim government. For the ruling Awami League coalition, which has altogether 262
Members in the National Parliament, the Constitutional amendment was an easier exercise.

However, the Khaleda Zia led Bangladesh Nationalist Party maintains its demand that the government should bring a non-party neutral government bill in the ongoing session of Parliament beginning on September 12 to settle the issue relating to the polls. Begum Zia argues that the present Parliament must be dissolved before the general election.

Terming the Bangladesh Election Commission as a puppet of the government and worthless, the BNP chief Khaleda Zia argued that the nation can not expect a fair election under the present electoral statutory body of Bangladesh.

The debate gained a different dimension, while Nobel winning Bangladeshi economist Dr Muhammad Yunus voiced for a non-party caretaker government to conduct the polls such that the process gets credibility and be acceptable to everyone.

“There’s no scope to have a free, fair and peaceful election without a non-party neutral government,” asserted Prof Yunus recently. The statement of Prof Yunus, who was removed by the Hasina government as the Managing Director of internationally recognized Grameen Bank in March 2011, has been taken as a major political stand since he initiated for a political party six years back.

Soon after the Nobel award conferred jointly on him and his creation Grameen Bank in 2006, Prof Yunus decided to form a political party named Nagarik Shakti (People’s Power), but later he abandoned the idea. Most of the political observers based in Dhaka believe that the rivalry between him and the present Prime Minister Hasina started since then.

As the point of views of Prof Yunus on the impartial election-time government matches with the opposition party, the ruling Awami League leaders have left no stone unturned to criticize and condemn the lone Nobel awadree of Bangladesh.

Understanding the crisis in Bangladesh is deepening, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tried to mediate for a dialogue between the two leading political coalitions led by Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The UN Secretary-General called both the important ladies Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia on August 23 over phone and discussed about the upcoming national elections.

Responding to the queries of Ban Ki-moon, the Prime Minister had reportedly assured of a free and credible election in Bangladesh to form the next Parliament. She also added that the election would be held as per the provisions of the Constitution.

Similarly, Khaleda Zia had informed the UN Secretary-General that her party expects an independent Election Commission to conduct the general election under a caretaker government. Otherwise, the BNP would not take part in the national polls under the Awami League led coalition government. However the opposition leader agreed to Ban Ki-moon that there was no alternative to dialogue to resolve the
present political crisis in Bangladesh.

Voices of concern were also expressed by various countries and international agencies like the United States of America, United Kingdom, European Union etc on the Bangladesh political situation and every one urged the local political party leadership to go for dialogues and find out a compromised way to proceed for the general election.

Though the Awami League government claims success in curbing terrorism and corruption in the country, the voters had shown rejection to the party in the last corporation polls in five major cities of Bangladesh.

If the results of elections held this year to five city corporations (of Gazipur, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sylhet and Khulna), it can be observed that the opposition parties have recorded sweeping victories. The loss incurred by the ruling party in the polls for the corporations is the recent indication that the outcome of the forthcoming general election may not go in favour of Awami League and also Hasina Wajed.

Ms Hasina now smells an international conspiracy that might try ‘to block Awami League's return to power for another term’. Addressing a party meeting recently in Dhaka, Hasina Wajed asserted that some people may not like that her government had achieved much success and many international elements would not like to see Bangladesh developing in a faster way than ever before under her leadership.

* Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati based journalist

[Source: Countercurrents.org]


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