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    » 05/13/2008, 00.00

    BANGLADESH

    Doubts remain in Dhaka over elections under a state or emergency

    Nozrul Islam

    After postponing elections for more than a year, the provisional government announces elections for the third week of December. But the announcement does not mention whether after 16 months the state of emergency will be lifted or not. Discussions with the main parties are bound to be difficult.

    Dhaka (AsiaNews) – After being postponed several times in the last year and half, Bangladesh’s long-awaited elections are set to take place on the third week of December. This should end the rule by the military-backed provisional government that took over 16 months ago imposing a state of emergency. Many experts remain doubtful however about what might actually happen. The government’s Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed made the announcement himself.

    Elections were originally scheduled for January 2007 but were postponed after weeks of violence in which at least 30 people died and hundreds were wounded  Since then, the country has been administered by Ahmed’ government with military backing.

    In his address broadcast on TV and radio, Mr Ahmed said that the government was committed to creating an environment that was congenial to campaigning. But many analysts are sceptical, wondering how elections can be held under a state of emergency.

    Ahmed did announce that the ban on “indoor politics” was lifted, setting 22 May as the start for a dialogue with political parties over organising the elections.

    Public meetings and demonstrations remain however illegal and the chief adviser has not set any date for lifting the state of emergency.

    Indeed although the military-backed government pledged a return to democracy within 2008 it is hard to say whether it will actually concede power to an elected government.

    Its policy of dismantling and rebuilding the country’s two dominant political parties has not worked. The leader of the Awami League, Sheikh Hasina, and that of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Khaleda Zia, both jailed on corruption charges, have still important followings. By contrast, the provisional government is losing public support because of the shadow cast by the army and by runaway prices.

    Ahmed remains confident though that dialogue with the parties, presently at an impasse, will prove worthwhile.

    It still faces a uphill struggle because the Awami League announced that it will not recognise the elections if its leader, Hasina, is not freed. Concurrently the BNP is faced with deep divisions caused by Khaleda Zia’s absence. 

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    See also

    19/05/2008 BANGLADESH
    Leader of largest Islamic party arrested on corruption charges
    Nizami, a religious leader who heads the Jamaat-e-Islami, was a minister in Khaleda Zia’s cabinet. His is the latest arrest among the country’s political elite and main political players.

    17/12/2008 BANGLADESH
    State of emergency lifted to pave the way for elections in Bangladesh
    Vote is scheduled for 29 December. The two former women prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, begin their campaign. Both were jailed for corruption but are now free. Army action raises doubts.

    12/01/2007 BANGLADESH
    National state of emergency is imposed, elections postponed, but it all seems a contrived manoeuvre
    President Iajuddin quits as head of caretaker government and delays elections as the opposition demanded. Tensions remain high though as the UN ends its support to the electoral process. For some analysts a creeping coup d’État is underway.

    19/01/2007 BANGLADESH
    Elections not likely before six months
    The government announces plans to revise voters’ list; it expects the process to last six months. Meanwhile police arrest 2,000 people under the state of emergency regulations, including many Awami League members.

    05/08/2008 BANGLADESH
    Awami Leagues sweeps to victory in local elections
    Early projections indicate a victory by the party of former Prime Minister Hasina in all four city corporations and eight municipalities out of nine. Voting went well and without incidents despite the state of emergency in place across the country.



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