Bangladesh emergency may be lifted fortnight before polls

November 24th, 2008 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 24 (IANS) Almost two years after it was imposed, emergency may be lifted in Bangladesh ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec 29, media reports here said Monday. M.A. Matin, home advisor in the military-backed caretaker government, said Sunday that no formal decision had been taken to end emergency, imposed in January 2007. However, the Daily Star newspaper said with certainty that it would be lifted on Dec 12 “as the caretaker government has agreed to the Election Commission’s (EC) proposal to that end”.

The date marks expiry of the deadline for withdrawal of candidacy in the national polls, now scheduled on Dec 29.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, who performs prime ministerial functions in the interim government, consented to the proposal.

“We talked to the government and it assured us of taking measures to lift the state of emergency after the last date for withdrawal of candidacy,” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) A.T.M. Shamsul Huda told journalists Sunday evening.

“We expect that the situation will remain normal after lifting of emergency,” Matin said.

This is the first time that a specific date has been announced for lifting the state of emergency, The Daily Star noted.

“The two electoral alliances requested the Election Commission to pursue the government for withdrawal of the state of emergency allowing them to launch electioneering in a free atmosphere,” Huda said, referring to the last three days of negotiations with the two alliances led by the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

If emergency is lifted on Dec 12, candidates will have to abide by only the electoral code of conduct. In fact, the electoral code of conduct is harsher than the Emergency Powers Rules regarding the punishment for its violation, the newspaper said.

The poll was postponed from Dec 18 to 29, following hard bargaining by former prime minister and BNP chief Khaleda Zia and her Islamist allies who threatened a boycott.

“We welcome the Election Commission’s announcement… Now the government should clear its stance on our other demands,” she was quoted as saying in the New Age newspaper.

Zia’s style of bargaining has not gone well with her rival, Sheikh Hasina who heads the Awami League.

“Why can’t they stick to the date once they had announced it? Why has everyone to accept one person’s demand?” she asked.

“She wants withdrawal of emergency and at the same time delay in elections. It is only a strategy to prolong the emergency,” New Age quoted her as telling a gathering of teachers Sunday.

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