Thursday, January 4, 2007

Grand alliance boycotts January 22 Elections

Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance yesterday announced it will boycott and resist the parliamentary election set for January 22, alleging that all the electoral preparations by the government so far have been for 'stage-managing the next election in favour of BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance'. In defence of its latest decision, AL President Sheikh Hasina at a crowded news briefing alleged that an atmosphere conducive to a fair election has yet to come to existence although only 19 days are left for it; instead of a neutral caretaker government President Iajuddin Ahmed established a shadow government of BNP-Jamaat; a flawless voter list safeguarding the people's right to universal franchise has not been prepared yet; and the administration still remains politicised. Asked whether the grand alliance will be responsible for any constitutional crisis arising from its election boycott, Hasina said, "A constitutional crisis can be avoided by holding of fair election following Iajuddin's resignation… a constitutional crisis will be created if a farcical election is held by stealing votes."

On behalf of the grand alliance, Hasina demanded immediate resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed from the post of chief adviser (CA) and appointment of a new CA, reconstitution of the Election Commission in line with the package proposal prepared by the council of advisers, changes in the top levels of intelligence agencies, depoliticisation of the administration, a fresh election schedule following proper updating of the voter list, suspending Rapid Action Battalion's (Rab) activities till the election is over, and allowing Ershad and others to participate in the poll -- whose nomination papers had been 'illegally cancelled'. Referring to the grand alliance announced countrywide 48-hour blockade on January 7 and 8, the AL chief warned if the demands are not met even after that, then the president's official residence, Bangabhaban, will be blockaded indefinitely.

Following a series of hectic meetings among its components over the Eid holidays, the grand alliance finally yesterday decided to boycott the January 22 election. From the news briefing, the grand alliance chief asked the alliance candidates to withdraw their nomination papers prompting a large number of senior leaders to rush to the EC for withdrawing their candidacies. The leaders of the grand alliance asked the acting chief election commissioner (CEC) to postpone the electoral process to save the country from a probable disaster. Acting CEC Justice Mahfuzur Rahman however said the election will be held on January 22 as per the schedule. Soon after the grand alliance' decision, eight political parties including Communist Party of Bangladesh announced that they will also boycott the election.

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