Civic polls on in emergency-bound Bangladesh

August 4th, 2008 - 3:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Aug 4 (IANS) Civic polls are underway in Bangladesh Monday, the first since national emergency was imposed in January last year, though it has been partially lifted to facilitate campaigning in four cities and nine towns. The military-backed government has justified the continuance of emergency in the face of demands by political parties to lift it completely.

Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda Sunday claimed that the state of emergency would not hamper smooth polling, and that it would instead ensure foolproof security for voters.

A total of 1,367,622 voters are eligible to cast votes in 715 polling centres from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. to elect 278 local government representatives, including four city and nine municipal mayors.

The participation in the polls by political parties is partial, and is accompanied by a vociferous campaign that the caretaker government advance the time table for the general elections called off amidst political turmoil last year.

The government has promised parliamentary polls for the third week of December, and also wants to hold elections to sub-district councils in October.

Two former prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, as also 200 other former ministers and lawmakers are currently being prosecuted for graft charges by the interim government led by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Hasina’s Awami League, although contesting the polls, cast doubts about its fairness, even as its acting chief, Zaillur Rahman, expressed confidence about winning them with large margins. But he feared that the results might be “twisted” by the government, the New Age newspaper said Monday.

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