Dhaka government to talk to parties on poll code

March 25th, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, March 25 (IANS) Bangladesh’s army-backed caretaker government wants to initiate talks with political parties to evolve a code of conduct for the elections it has promised for this yearend. But it also wants the politicians’ support to sustain political and electoral reforms and the anti-graft drive that politicians say is aimed against them.

The talks could begin early next month, The Daily Star said, quoting an unnamed adviser in the government. An adviser performs ministerial functions in the government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed that has been in office since January last year.

The talks are expected to break the logjam that has persisted since the country came under an emergency and the 12th general election was called off amid political turmoil.

However, any dialogue between the government and the politicians is difficult, with both former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina (1996-2001) and Khaleda Zia (1991-96 and 2001-2006), in jail facing corruption charges.

Many of Hasina’s political associates, both sons of Zia and a large number of her former ministers and lawmakers are in jail or are battling in the courts charges that they reject as politically motivated.

By involving them in prolonged trial and keeping them in jail, the caretaker government, they say, wants to get them disqualified and kept out of the election process.

However, the newspaper said Tuesday that the government policymakers want the political parties to “commit themselves to continuing the anti-corruption drive and institutional reforms and preventing a relapse into the situation preceding the present administration’s takeover”.

“A code of conduct for the next ruling and opposition parties might be drawn up to do away with the practices like parliament boycott, hartal (strike) and violence-filled street agitations,” the adviser told the newspaper.

With continual price hike of essential commodities and the donor agencies and diplomats calling for an immediate start to the dialogue, the military-backed administration now does not want to wait for the Election Commission to wrap up the electoral reforms talks first to begin its own, said insiders.

An official announcement will be made soon after the government finalises matters relating to negotiations with the political parties, they added.

“How long can they afford to wait,” an unnamed official close to the advisory council told the newspaper, explaining the reasons why the government was planning to begin the talks in the first week of April.

Chief Adviser Ahmed in his address to the nation Jan 12 announced that the council of advisers had decided in favour of dialogue with the political parties.

The Election Commission that is preparing for the elections has itself asked the government to open talks with political parties.

The political parties look to raise a myriad of current issues while the caretaker government would want them to reach a consensus over crucial national issues.

Complete withdrawal of restrictions on indoor politics across the country would figure in the talks, a source said.

Besides, a decision on whether to relax or lift the state of emergency might come after the dialogue, the newspaper said.

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