Finally, Bangladesh poll process appears to be on schedule

November 22nd, 2008 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 22 (IANS) With major political roadblocks - the poll date controversy and a meeting between two principal contenders for power, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia - removed from its path, Bangladesh appears to be well on its way to have its delayed ninth general election this year-end. The new date of polling may well be Dec 28, after the date decided earlier, Dec 18, became a subject of bargaining between the military-backed caretaker government on one side and Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on the other.

Awami League chief Hasina had insisted on the earlier date, but has now accepted a ten-day deferment to ensure an all-in poll exercise that not only everyone in Bangladesh, but also the world community, seem anxious about.

The two women politicians Friday met at the Armed Forces Day function in full public view after over a decade and exchanged greetings.

They sought to remove the impression that the political adversaries bore personal enmity.

“It is not that we do not meet or talk. We have met in the past and shall meet in future too,” Hasina told smiling onlookers.

The meeting lightened the atmosphere of acrimony that goes beyond what is experienced poll-time elsewhere. Bangladesh has a tradition of the loser not accepting the poll verdict, taking to the streets and boycotting parliament, political analysts said.

The Election Commission sat with Zia to work out details of the poll date.

Hasina said the poll body should work out the details with Zia and there was no need for a separate meting with her alliance.

Seat allotment by Hasina to her Awami League (AL) nominees has caused some protests, and acrimony may continue when it comes to sharing them with nominees of 13 other centrist and left-of-centre parties.

Zia, who had kept the poll preparations on while bargaining with the government, has unveiled a list of her BNP nominees, dropping all “reformists”.

“Reformists” are in both the parries, AL and BNP. They are those who spoke out or worked to support the political reforms sought to be introduced by the caretaker government, while the two women were in jail on graft charges.

Zia has also earmarked 50 seats for her allies, a conglomerate of Islamist parties led by the Jamaat-e-Islami, The Daily Star said Saturday.

Hasina is to contest from Bagerhat constituency. She has won and lost in the past. She generally contests from Gopalganj, from where her ancestors come.

Zia has not yet declared where she will contest from. She may contest from more than one constituency. She has never lost a poll.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) has declared 37 registered political parties eligible to contest the upcoming election.

The number is significantly less than the previous elections because of the strict provision for political parties’ registering with the EC. Ninety-six parties took part in the 2001 parliamentary polls.

A total of 107 political parties had applied to the EC for registration, New Age newspaper said.

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