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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 950

Bangladesh parliamentary polls on December 29

Our Diplomatic Correspondent reports from Dhaka

Dhaka 24 November (Asiantribune.com): The long-awaited Bangladesh parliamentary election will now be held on December 29 and upazila( local government unit) on January 22, the Election Commission (EC) announced, meaning almost certainly an end to the impasse over the polls.

The announcement is the upshot of the last few days' hectic negotiations between the EC, caretaker government and political parties. This is the third revision to the polls schedules unveiled on November 2.

According to the original plans, the parliamentary election was to be held on December 18 and upazila on December 28. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr ATM Shamsul Huda said hopefully the new timing will be acceptable to all, and the political parties will begin full-fledged electoral activities today, reports the daily star.

According to the fresh timetables, the closing date for filing candidacy applications in the national election is November 30 and in upazila polls December 13.

The applications for the parliamentary election will be scrutinized on December 3-4 and upazila elections on December 17-19.

The end date for withdrawing candidature from the parliamentary race is December 11 and from upazila election is December 31.

Terming the schedules a reasonable solution to the stalemate over timing of the polls, CEC Huda said there remains no room for doubt or uncertainty over the elections.

“We'll do whatever it takes to hold free and fair elections,” he said.

The polls chief briefly described the EC's negotiations with the political parties in the last three days and also the caretaker government's initiative to resolve the issue.

The crisis arose when BNP and allies laid down a number of conditions for their participation in the polls.

Officials at the EC Secretariat said Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed called the CEC and expressed satisfaction with the new dates. He also thanked the election commissioners for hammering out a 'resolution of the crisis over the polls'.

Before making the announcement, the EC sat separately with BNP and AL leaders again to reach a consensus over the election days, the report added.

Citing the long and detailed procedure required to revoke candidature, the CEC said there is enough safeguard against abuse of the authority. There is no scope for its abuse.

He also observed that the commission should retain the power to resist electoral offences like snatching ballot papers and occupying polling stations.

The EC changed twice the dates in its first schedules for filing, scrutiny and withdrawal of nominations. The polling days were left unchanged on both occasions.

However, its efforts towards all-party polls continued to falter with BNP sticking to their demands.

Sheikh Hasina sees plot to foil polls

Awami League president Sheikh Hasina, less than an hour before the Election Commission rescheduled the parliamentary vote for Dec. 29, voiced concern about "efforts to foil" the general election.

"Efforts are underway to foil the election. But the people want election and therefore, it must take place," she said to a team of representatives from the University of Dhaka on Sunday at her office.

"Let the people vote and get an elected government. We want a free, fair and transparent election, and a reflection of the will of the people."

Hasina said the re-scheduling of the election had put her party in a quandary.

"We have already given nomination to our candidates, now there will be efforts to buy our candidates out."

"They (AL's rivals) are not short of cash and this will be used to foil the election," said Hasina.

She maintained that the anticorruption crackdown was on politicians and not graft and pointed to the fact that those who had been detained on corruption charges were now free on bail.

Emergency may go from Dec 12

The state of emergency is going to be lifted finally on December 12 as the caretaker government has agreed to the Election Commission's (EC) proposal to that end, reports the daily star.
The EC at a meeting with Chief Adviser (CA) Fakhruddin Ahmed at his office yesterday proposed to lift the emergency from December 12 on expiry of the deadline for withdrawal of candidacy in the national polls, sources say.
The chief adviser consented to the proposal and assured EC that his government is ready to do everything required to ensure holding a free and fair election, the report added.

Khaleda hails fixture

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia last night hailed the announcement of the latest polls schedule but stopped short of accepting it on grounds of state of emergency.

"We welcome the Election Commission's announcement...Now the government should clear its stance on our other demands," she said at her Gulshan office hours after the EC announced the fresh election schedule following hectic parleys with the Awami League and BNP.

John McCain visits Bangladesh in early Dec

US Senator John McCain, who was the Republican nominee for this year's presidential election, is scheduled to visit Bangladesh in early December as part of a broader regional trip.

Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Lindsey Graham will accompany McCain, says a release from The American Center.

They will meet with the government officials, political party leaders and members of civil society to discuss bilateral issues.

McCain was elected to the US Senate to represent Arizona in 1986.

Senator Joseph Lieberman has represented Connecticut in the Senate since 1988 and was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000.

Senator Lindsey Graham has represented South Carolina in the Senate since 2002. All three Senators are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Senator McCain serving as the Ranking Member.

- Asian Tribune -

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