Saturday, December 30, 2006

Grand Alliance to go for blockade-January 7,8

Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance yesterday announced back-to-back countrywide blockades on January 7 and 8 demanding publication of a 'properly' corrected and updated voter list, and resignation of Chief Adviser (CA) Iajuddin Ahmed. Speaking at a packed news conference yesterday, AL President Sheikh Hasina warned, if the demands are not met, the president's official residence, Bangabhaban, will be blockaded indefinitely.

Hasina said that the people want an acceptable election through which their verdict will be reflected and they will neither accept nor allow an election where votes are stolen indiscriminately. She also added that "an election acceptable to the people and participated by them is more important than holding it on a fixed date."

When asked if AL will boycott the election if their demands are not met even after the countrywide blockades, Hasina said, "We don't want to run away from the battlefield. We want to stay there and fight till our demands are met." The AL chief accused the president and CA of not being interested in creating a congenial atmosphere for a free and fair election. The grand alliance's demanded resignation of the CA, rescheduling of the election and publication of the correctly updated voter list. She also called for rescheduling of the polling date for establishing a congenial atmosphere prior to holding the election.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Whether to contest the Elections? - Grand Alliance to decide Today

The Awami League (AL) led grand alliance will announce today its decision whether to participate in the next parliamentary elections under the circumstances, when the caretaker government is allegedly using the administration and law enforcement agencies against the alliance.

AL President Sheikh Hasina will announce the alliance's crucial decision at a joint press conference in the presence of top alliance leaders. Jatiya Party (JP) Chairman HM Ershad, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, and other key leaders of the grand alliance will be present at Hasina's press briefing. AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil at a press briefing at the Dhanmondi AL office yesterday said President and Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed with directions from the BNP-Jamaat alliance is leading the current situation towards a direction that will force us to take any rigid stance. The AL top leaders yesterday discussed the latest political development with Hasina at her Sudha Sadan residence.

Following declaration of Ershad's all five nomination papers invalid, the top leaders of the AL-led grand alliance began backtracking from their decision to contest the January 22 polls. Jalil said Ershad's nominations were cancelled without showing any proper grounds and following rules and regulations. At yesterday's press conference, Jalil alleged that leaders and activists of the AL-led grand alliance have been killed, arrested, tortured and harassed by the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and police across the country ahead of the elections. If the AL decides not to go to the polls, then they will make all-out efforts to resist any move to hold a "unilateral election," by mobilising the public.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Jatiya Party Chairman barred from polls

Violent protest in greater Rangpur

Jatiya Party (JP) Chairman HM Ershad was declared disqualified from the ballot yesterday. Returning officers (RO) rejected the five nomination papers Ershad had filed for the constituencies of Dhaka-5, Rangpur-3, Lalmonirhat-3, Sylhet-3 and Habiganj-3, on grounds of the Supreme Court's rejection of his appeal against a High Court verdict that had sentenced him to two years in prison in a graft case popularly known as 'Japanese boat purchase scam'. The current situation may lead Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance to re-think whether it will compete in the upcoming parliamentary election. The RO's rejection of Ershad's nomination papers sparked a violent protest in greater Rangpur where leaders and activists of JP (Ershad) staged protests yesterday and called for dawn-to-dusk hartals today in different districts.

Sensing the rejection coming his way, Ershad met AL President Sheikh Hasina in her residence at 11:50am yesterday and discussed strategies for the next course of action. He told reporters that if the 'conspiracy against him' continues he might not contest the election. He also said that since he is in the grand alliance, he will take the decision in consultation with the alliance partners. As per the latest reports, in a couple of days, the grand alliance that filed nomination papers on Tuesday shifting from its rigid stance of not participating in the poll under the caretaker government led by President Iajuddin Ahmed, will announce whether it will remain in the race.

The constitution says that a person shall not be eligible to be a member of parliament if convicted and sentenced to at least two years in prison in a case of criminal offence involving moral turpitude unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.

A widespread debate has begun on whether Ershad should be allowed to contest the polls. The state lawyers, who were appointed by the immediate past government, have been arguing that Ershad is not eligible for contesting the polls in accordance with the provision of the constitution. On the other hand, eminent jurists are arguing that Ershad is eligible to contest the polls since he already served two years in jail in the case and because five years have already elapsed since his release in 1997.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nomination Paper Submission closes Today - Grand Alliance files nominations

Dhaka,Bangladesh: As the nomination paper submission closes, the battle for ballot between the two major political alliances kicks off today. The candidates of the Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance has decided to file their nominations for the election slated for January 22. Most of the contenders of the BNP-led four-party alliance have already filed nominations. However, none of the alliances has announced the official list of their nominees, as both the sides could not yet reach an understanding over sharing seats for the election. The final lists will not be made public before January 3, the closing date for withdrawing candidature. .

The AL sources claimed that their candidates will submit nominations for 212 constituencies as the party is set to leave 88 seats for its allies. On the other hand, Jatiya Party (JP-Ershad) claims that it has been allocated 50 seats while the LDP maintains that 27 seats have been left for it to contest. Among the partners of the 14-party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) claimed that it has got 6 seats, Gono Forum claimed 2, Workers Party 4, a faction of Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) 2 and Khelafat Majlish 2. The BNP has set aside 31 seats for Jamaat-e-Islami, three for the BJP, three for Islami Oikya Jote and one for Anwar Hossain Manju-led Jatiya Party.
Over 9.30 crore voters are supposed to choose their representatives at 300 constituencies

The AL Parliamentary Board, meanwhile, has had the candidates' signatures on withdrawal letters in case the party needs to withdraw the nomination papers to boycott the election, sources said. AL Joint General Secretary Obaidul Quader told journalists yesterday, that they will continue to observe the situation and will decide on our final course of action before the last date for withdrawing candidature."

On the last date, the offices of 68 returning officers (RO) and 536 assistant returning officers (ARO) will be receiving the nomination papers from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The Election Commission (EC) has reserved 150 symbols for the contenders. Of those, 76 were earmarked for as many number of political parties contesting the polls and the rest are for the independent candidates. After the last date for withdrawing candidature that is January 3, the ROs will allocate the symbols among the candidates fielded by the political parties as well as the independent ones.

The official process towards the election to form the ninth parliament began on November 27 with the announcement of election schedule that went on to be changed on several occasions. It will end with gazette notification of the victorious candidates.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Seat sharing almost finalised - Grand alliance

Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance almost completed its preparations for contesting the upcoming election whenever it happens, according to alliance sources. Jatiya Party (JP) Chairman HM Ershad yesterday morning met AL President Sheikh Hasina in her Sudha Sadan residence in the capital and discussed the issue of seat sharing with her. AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil sat with Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leaders in his Gulshan residence yesterday evening to discuss the same while LDP President Badruddoza Chowdhury was scheduled to hold talks with Sheikh Hasina at the time of filing this report late last night.

The sources said AL is likely to finalise its own candidates today and it was roughly decided that Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) will contest in four constituencies, Gono Forum in three and Workers Party in four constituencies under the umbrella of the grand electoral alliance. According to the primary decision JSD will contest in Kustia-6, Chittagong-10, Panchagarh-1 and Sunamganj-4 constituencies while Gono Forum will contest in Cox's Bazar-1, Dhaka-3 and Manikganj-3. The constituencies Workers Party will contest for include Barisal-2, Rajshahi-2 and a constituency in Satkhira district. Zaker Party will contest in Faridpur-4 and Islami Oikyo Jote will contest in Narail-2, the sources added.

AL is also negotiating with Parbatiya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity, and Krishok Sramik Janata League to bring them into the fold of its grand alliance based on similar seat sharing.The sources said during almost two-hour long discussion Sheikh Hasina and HM Ershad finalised around 35 constituencies for JP to contest in and decided to continue their discussion on seat sharing as JP top leaders placed demands for a few more seats.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Army employed to tackle Hartal after 16 years -100 injured

The Jatiya Party (Ershad), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and some Islamic parties at a grand rally on December 18 formally joined hands with the 14-party alliance. From that rally, they called the dawn-to-dusk hartal, demanding Iajuddin's resignation as the CA and immediate measures to create a level playing field before the upcoming general election.

Following the hartal yesterday, for the first time, since restoration of democracy through a mass upsurge in 1990, the government that too a caretaker employed the army to tackle political demonstrations in the city and elsewhere in the country. Deployed on December 9, following a unilateral decision of President and Chief Adviser (CA) Iajuddin Ahmed, the armed forces swung into action to disperse the pickets in Dhaka yesterday. The troops chased off supporters of the 14-party combine and its allies as the latter clashed with the police, damaged a couple of vehicles and set fire to another car in Shyamoli in the morning. Alongside the law enforcers, the military were on patrol across the city during the hartal hours. The BNP, however, stood up for the army's role, saying it is part of their [military] responsibilities to foil attempts to create anarchy.

The CA on December 13 ordered the army to be on standby and not to engage actively in routine law enforcement, but the home ministry did not issue any directives to the field level administrations in line with the decision, said sources. Meanwhile, CA Iajuddin Ahmed yesterday claimed that all conditions set by some political parties for participation in the upcoming election have been met, talking to the European Union delegation. Sticking to his stance on the army deployment, the CA told them that the armed forces have been deployed in aid of the law enforcement agencies to create and maintain an atmosphere congenial to free and fair election.

This time, the military deployment came 43 days before the polling day, which is January 22 according to the current schedule. In previous instances, the army was deployed only 14 days before the election in 2001, 18 days in 1996, and 23 days before the polls in 1991.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Poll Schedule Disclosed, No change on Election Date -Election Commission

Election Commission rescheduled the polls timetable again, at the request of the advisory council of caretaker government,keeping in mind holding of election within the 90-day constitutional obligation.The council also requested Election Commissioner SM Zakaria yesterday to go on leave of absence and claimed that it has implemented the entire package proposal finalised 16 days ago although the proposals also included sending of Election Commissioner Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury on leave and appointment of new election commissioners to recast the EC.The council of advisers also decided not to appoint any new election commissioner although its package proposal had a deal in this regard.

A delegation of the AL-led grand alliance rushed to the EC yesterday afternoon and rejected the new timetable for the ninth parliamentary election, demanding announcement of election schedule after properly correcting the voter list first.
In line with the request of the council of advisers, the EC rescheduled the next election by extending the deadline for filing nomination papers by three days up to December 24.

The dates for other stages of the election were also re-fixed. In the new timetable, the date for scrutiny of nomination papers is December 28 and the date for withdrawal of candidature is January 3. The previous deadlines were December 22 and 28. The polling date, however, remains the same--January 22. The EC has to complete the election by January 25, the last day of the constitutionally stipulated 90-day period for holding election.

In reply to the demand of voter list correction, by AL-led grand alliance,the Election Commissioner said the electoral roll can be updated up to the day before election and the lists will be available at the district election offices for correction.

Following these latest developments towards resolving the existing political deadlock, the council of advisers hopes that all political parties will now participate in the election.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

National Assembly Elections - 2007

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy, since Independence. Bangladesh started its journey with the Parliamentary System of Government, then switched over to the Presidential System and in 1991 reverted to the Parliamentary system. Its 1972 constitution has been amended several times. The president is chief of state and the prime minister heads the government.

The ruling government took power on Oct 2001 and the term ended on Oct 2006 . According to the current poll schedule, Bangladesh 2007 National Assembly Election will be held on January 22. The last date for filing nomination papers for the ninth parliamentary election will be December 21.

Bangladesh's political scene has been tumultuous since independence. Periods of democratic rule have been interrupted by coups, martial law, and states of emergency. In the midst of this confusing scene, there are 5 major political forces in the country. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies forming the right-of-center to conservative grouping in Bangladesh and is currently in power in Bangladesh. The current opposition is led by the Awami League (AL), which initially saw its birth as a socialistic organization but has now transformed into a center/center-left political stream. To the left are the pro-Soviet Bangladesh Communist Party, factions of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, and other socialist groups advocating revolutionary change. To the right is a group of parties, including Jamaat e Islami and Islami Oikyo Jote, who calls for an increased role for Islam in public life. The fifth major pary is the party founded by ex-military ruler General Ershad, the Jatiyo Party (JP) is ideologically not too different from the AL or the BNP but operates independently.

Election -2007

The ninth parliamentary elections are scheduled for January 2007, with political alliances led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Awami League (AL) in the fray. The main issues include poor performance and mal-governance, rise of extremism and, most importantly, holding free and fair elections despite a deteriorating law and order situation in the country.

The last five years rule was plagued with disapproval by the liberals and moderates. Despite this, the ruling alliance sought to strengthen itself and widen its electoral reach. The BNP and its two allies, Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote, are likely to be joined by an entrenched political force, the Jatiya Party (JP) led by H.M. Ershad. This political alliance between ultra-rightists (Islamic Parties) and the BNP is of concern, as their political platform is anchored in an undemocratic military ethos, strong enough to defeat the liberal democratic forces. On the other side, BNP dissidents like AKM Badrudozza Chowdhary (Bikalpa Parisad) and Deputy Speaker of Jatiya Sansad, along with some MPs of the newly formed Liberal Democratic Party have joined the 14 parties opposition led by the Awami League, which has enthused this new alliance of liberal democratic forces.