Bangladesh registers 80 mn voters for December polls

July 23rd, 2008 - 11:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, July 23 (IANS) Registering 80 million voters in 11 months, Bangladesh’s Election Commission has announced completion of a major, contentious task ahead of the December parliamentary polls. It was achieved with the help of the military and international agencies during a period that saw floods, landslides and a cyclone.

The process faced several obstacles. One of them was cancellation of orders for laptops and other hardware, sought to be purchased from India, after a court detected procedural lapses by authorities placing the order.

UNDP provided inputs for the project implementation and rendered administrative assistance when the project faced procurement problems.

The project also received assistance from the European Union, DFID, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and South Korea, The Daily Star said.

The caretaker government went into a brief celebratory mode Tuesday at a city five-star hotel, when Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed said his administration was ready to pass on the reins to an elected government once the general elections are completed.

Registration of voters and preparation of voters’ list was a contentious issue in 2006 when the then poll panel chief refused to abide by a Supreme Court directive to go for door-to-door exercise.

He had cited lack of funds, infrastructure and time for this, triggering opposition protests that the voters’ list was meant to be tampered with by the then government of prime minister Khaleda Zia.

It was one of the issues that caused months of political turmoil, forcing the cancellation of the general election and imposition of a national emergency in January last year.

The chief adviser expressed his satisfaction at successful completion of an error-free voter list with photographs, Bangladesh’s first, saying it is a milestone towards a free and fair election.

“We look forward to an election which will not only be free, fair and credible but also set a high standard for future elections as well,” said Ahmed, flanked by the army chief, Gen. Moin U. Ahmed.

He congratulated all who made it happen, completing the registration of 80,500,723 voters with their photographs and fingerprints in 11 months.

Campaign is on for elections to four municipal corporations and eight municipalities for which the government has partially lifted the emergency curbs.

The government wants to conduct upzilla (sub-district) polls, but these are being resisted by major political parties.

Jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia and her arch rival Sheikh Hasina who is abroad, both issued strong statements Tuesday demanding that the government skip these polls and go straight for parliamentary polls, earlier than the December schedule.

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