Bangladesh poll body to take action against minister, MP

January 23rd, 2009 - 12:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 23 (IANS) Bangladesh’s Election Commission (EC) has moved to take legal action against a cabinet minister and a ruling party lawmaker for allegedly influencing Thursday’s local body elections.Taking place within a month of the Dec 29 parliamentary poll, upazila parishad (sub-district council) elections across Bangladesh was marred by sporadic violence and incidents of rigging, media reports said Friday.

The Awami League (AL), which swept last month’s poll, was accused of trying to consolidate its holding by resorting to intimidation of poll staff and violence.

Ignoring the electoral rules, Fisheries and Livestock Minister Abdul Latif Biswas and AL lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi allegedly interfered in the polls in Belkuchi upazila of Sirajganj and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar, southeastern Bangladesh.

As per the electoral rules, they may be imprisoned for a term of two to seven years and fined if they are found guilty of the offences, which are considered criminal offences.

“Ghosts of past return”, The Daily Star newspaper headlined its report, alleging that political parties have a record of influencing elections through unfair means.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) accused AL of trying to eliminate the opposition and said it would move the Election Commission with evidence.

The EC has yet to announce the results of the upazila elections, being conducted after 19 years.

Despite a relatively peaceful atmosphere, people did not come out in droves to vote like they did in the recently held national election.

In the run-up to the upazila parishad elections, the EC had written to the government’s Cabinet Division requesting all ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers and people enjoying similar status not to participate in electioneering by visiting upazilas scheduled for the polls.

“But a minister was found at a polling station today (Thursday). There was no need for him to visit that place but he stayed there and created problems in polling. As a result, we were compelled to suspend polling,” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) A.T.M. Shamsul Huda said, referring to Latif Biswas’ interference in Belkuchi upazila.

Referring to Bodi, Huda said another lawmaker beat up polling officials.

“Judicial magistrates have already been asked to take legal action against the two,” Huda said.

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