‘Hasina won’t protect tainted minister’

January 24th, 2009 - 12:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 24 (IANS) Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is unlikely to interfere in the steps initiated by the Election Commission against a cabinet minister and an MP for allegedly influencing local body polls.An “annoyed” Hasina will not protect the minister and lawmaker “for tainting the government’s image by meddling in Thursday’s upazila (sub-district council) elections”, a media report said Saturday.

In breach of electoral rules, Fisheries and Livestock Minister Abdul Latif Biswas and Awami League lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi interfered in the polls in Belkuchi upazila of Sirajganj and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar.

“What they (Latif and Bodi) have done is an embarrassment to the government. This was never expected,” Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, a close political aide of the prime minister, told The Daily Star newspaper.

Chowdhury, who is also an Awami League presidium member, said the Election Commission had every right to take punitive measures against those who had sought to exert influence on the electoral process.

“I think the prime minister won’t interfere in the (Election) Commission’s move against those responsible,” she said.

Bangladesh’s Election Commission has moved to take legal action against Latif and Bodi. As per electoral laws, they face up to seven years in prison and fines for the charges they face.

According tO party sources, Hasina is likely to pull up the minister and lawmaker for disgracing the party at the upcoming Awami League Parliamentary Party meeting. Latif and Bodi would have to explain their actions at the meet and Hasina may even issue warning letters to them, the sources were quoted as saying.

Serious doubts have now been expressed over the credibility of Thursday’s upazila parishad polls. The voter turnout across rural Bangladesh was estimated to be low as compared to the parliamentary poll. However, the poll body, which launched a probe, now finds that 67.98 percent people did vote.

New Age newspaper said in an editorial that there was “a big question over quality of upazila polls”.

“Election observers said the observed low turnout of voters in the upazila polls following a highly successful holding of the recent parliamentary election with a turnout of over 87 percent had disappointed everybody,” The Daily Star said.

Taking place within a month of the Dec 29 parliamentary poll, the upazila parishad elections across Bangladesh was marred by sporadic violence and incidents of rigging, media reports said Friday.

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