Bangladesh local bodies’ poll begins

January 22nd, 2009 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 22 (IANS) Polling for Bangladesh’s upazila parishad (sub-district councils) began Thursday. The polls are being held after a gap of 19 years.The elections to 479 upazila parishads out of 481 began simultaneously at 8 a.m. and will continue till 4 p.m., Star Online web site reported.

The cabinet Wednesday decided that necessary amendments to the law would be affected to facilitate winners retain their party affiliations.

It overrides earlier views that elections to rural bodies and civic bodies should be on non-party basis.

The election would again witness a trial of strength between the nine-party alliance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her rival Khaleda Zia’s four-party alliance.

Hasina’s alliance swept the parliamentary poll Dec 29 last year.

The elections to Ukhia upazila in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh were called off Wednesday night following clashes over candidacy of a chairman aspirant, while the elections to Dighinala upazila in Khagrachhari had been postponed earlier.

As many as 73,258,950 people are entitled to cast votes. There are over 8,000 contenders.

The most crucial local government body in terms of formation and functions, an upazila parishad is viewed by many experts as a “mini-parliament” with significant constitutional jurisdictions to run local administration and implement plans for economic and social development, the web site of The Daily Star newspaper said.

It, however, observed: “But, the future and success of the upazila parishads still hangs in the balance as it largely depends on the factor whether the newly elected government will allow the local government bodies to function uninterrupted or empower lawmakers again to intervene in their activities.”

Successive governments since restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1991 have kept upazilas dysfunctional either by dissolving the system or by not forming the bodies through elections, violating the constitutional provision that says the state shall encourage local government institutions.

Each of the previous governments had pledged in their electoral manifestos to strengthen the local government system. But once voted to power, they made efforts “to paralyse the local government bodies to establish party supremacy over the local administration”, The Daily Star report said.

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