Bangladesh government, opposition start dialogue on polls

May 23rd, 2008 - 12:58 am ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 22 (DPA) The military-backed interim government in Bangladesh began talks with opposition parties Thursday for chalking a consensus plan for a peaceful transition of the South Asian country to democracy, officials said. The talks were being held between the chief of the caretaker regime Fakhruddin Ahmed and his aides and the heads of political parties individually focusing on holding a free and credible general election by December.

The former central bank governor, who has been presiding over the longest running caretaker government in Bangladesh’s volatile history, said the upcoming parliamentary poll was critical for the country which is passing through soaring food prices and fears of a relapse of street violence.

Leaders of the left-wing Workers Party were the first to hold a dialogue with Fakhruddin who as chief adviser in the caretaker administration is the de facto prime minister of the country badly shaken by turmoil that bungled economic targets and fuelled double digit inflation.

As many as 19 political parties have been invited to the dialogue which is expected to continue for several months creating uncertainty about the future.

President Iajuddin Ahmad appointed Fakhruddin and a team of retired army generals, academics and former bureaucrats in January 2007 following widespread unrest that had pushed the country to the brink of a civil war.

Meanwhile, the interim government has been under pressure for lifting the state of emergency rule to create a favourable climate for holding a fair vote.

Nearly 170 senior politicians, including former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, were detained during an anti-corruption drive.

The interim authority blamed the two top politicians for the crisis created by a standoff between Hasina and Zia who lead the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the largest political groups in the country.

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