02/20/2007, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Nobel prizewinner Yunus to leave Grameen Bank and run for office

by Nozrul Islam
Microcredit inventor decides to run for parliament in a new party. Reactions vary: Some see him as the “Saviour of the Fatherland;” others look with suspicion at some of his non committal views and his political inexperience.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Mohammed Yunus, inventor of microcredit and Nobel peace Prizewinner for 2006, has announced his intention to leave the Grameen Bank (literally, ‘Village’ or ‘Rural’ Bank, i.e. the Bank of the poor) he founded in order to run for office in the upcoming Bangladeshi elections.

Since last October the country has been shaken by a major crisis that forced President Iajuddin Ahmed to postpone parliamentary elections scheduled for January 22 of this year and declare a state of emergency.

Mr Yunus’s party will be called Nagarik Shakti, Citizens' Power or people’s power in Bengali.

Reactions to his decision to join the fray have been multiple and disparate. Some view him as the “Saviour of the fatherland;” others are less generous and see him as trying to capitalise on his Nobel fame.

Papers are full of responses to his ‘open letter’ to the population in which he asked citizens for their views on his plan to set up a political party.

For many Bangladesh experts, Yunus’s decision to float his idea in the press seems good and at least runs against the grain of the established system in which parties are groups of supporters of absolute leaders with no democracy and internal debate. A good idea is also that of setting up village level units upon which to build a national party.

However, Yunus is a political neophyte and has always taken a neutral stance even when neutrality meant supporting corruption and injustice, according to some analysts. Now this neutrality is bound to change and a political programme with its guidelines and alliances must be formulated.

Moreover, nothing is known about his ties to the Bangladesh’s army, which remains an institution everyone must reckon with.

Hopefully, Yunus won’t play up too much his Noble prize and use the respect and prestige he gained to further his political ambitions; otherwise, he will be in trouble very soon.

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