Bangladesh’s Awami League may end civic poll boycott

June 27th, 2008 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 27 (IANS) Cracks have appeared in the opposition boycott of the civic polls in Bangladesh with the Awami League (AL) ready to take the plunge if the military-backed caretaker government lifts the emergency. This runs counter to the stand of the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) that has vowed to “resist” the civic polls slated for Aug 4 to cover four metropolis and nine municipalities.

Even as BNP chief, jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia, reiterated her boycott call Thursday, most members of the Awami League Central Working Committee felt that the party should participate in the civic polls to deny political space to others.

“Strategically, we should take part in the elections to strengthen the party, otherwise a third party or force might gather strength in those areas,” AL organising secretary Mahmudur Rahman Manna was quoted as saying at the meeting by The Daily Star newspaper Friday.

The party had earlier made lifting of the emergency and presence of its ailing chief, Sheikh Hasina, now in the US for medical treatment, as its preconditions to participation.

That it is keen to contest was evident from the request sent to the government to shift the date for submitting nominations for the civic elections from July 3 to July 5, saying it wants to discuss the matter with the government at the official dialogue July 3.

The AL agreed to join the ongoing dialogue after the government facilitated Hasina’s release for eight weeks to go to the US for treatment.

The BNP has so far stayed away from the dialogue preparatory to the parliamentary polls promised for next December. Its ally Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, too has boycotted the talks.

The Election Commission announced a civic poll schedule June 20, despite known opposition from mainstream parties who want the parliamentary polls first.

The government’s olive branch includes relaxing the Emergency Power Rules (EPR), allowing a measure of political activities, allowing campaign processions and rallies for 21 days until zero hours of Aug 3.

This would be the first-time relaxation since a national emergency was proclaimed and general elections were called off in January last year.

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