01/12/2007, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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National state of emergency is imposed, elections postponed, but it all seems a contrived manoeuvre

by Nozrul Islam
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.

 

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – President Iajuddin Ahmed announced a national state of emergency, an overnight curfew, and the postponement of the January 22 elections. He also stepped down as caretaker prime minister of Bangladesh. He thus met the main demands of the opposition led by Awami League chief Sheik Hasina. No date for the elections has been set yet but the United Nations have suspended their technical support to the electoral process whilst the European Union has put a stop to its monitoring mission.

 

In an address to the nation, Ahmed said one of his advisers, Fazlul Haque, would serve as head of the caretaker government for a few days until he had named a replacement.

Under Bangladesh’s constitution the caretaker government has the task of organising new elections within 90 days from the resignation of the outgoing government. The mandate of the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) ended last October.

Ahmed seems to have given in to the pressures by the Awami League and its allies who demanded the elections be delayed.

Some 45 people died and hundreds more were injured in violent clashes that took place in the run-up to the scheduled election day.

Sheikh Hasina’ coalition of opposition parties brought the transportation system to a standstill and held strikes. She had also pledged to boycott the elections convinced that 14 million phantom voters were included in the voters’ list to favour the BNP, which is led by her rival, Khaleda Zia.

A presidential spokesman yesterday said that during the state of emergency the electoral register would be fixed.

Analysts told AsiaNews that the state of emergency is the BNP’s plan B. The party is still seeking a 50 per cent voter turnout to call the elections, hence the future parliament, legitimate, but the process itself is more of a farce, so much so that some have said that a creeping coup d’État is underway.

The caretaker government has in fact given the army widespread powers; they can arrest without a warrant anyone considered a threat to the peace of the elections.

Meanwhile the international community waits and sees more interested in seeing stability maintained to avoid any negative impact on its economic interests in the country, largely based on cheap local labour.

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