Bangladesh parties begin campaign for Dec 18 poll

November 3rd, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 3 (IANS) Political parties in Bangladesh launched their campaign Monday for the 10th parliamentary polls Dec 18, the schedule for which was announced Sunday, 22 months after they were called off amidst political turmoil.While the military-backed caretaker government is expected to issue a gazette notification later to facilitate the process, there was no word whether the national emergency that was imposed in January last year would be lifted, as unanimously demanded by all political parties.

Commerce Adviser (minister) Hossain Zillur Rahman, a key government interlocutor with political parties, Sunday said that restrictions on political activities would go immediately after the election schedule was announced, but there was no official word after the schedule was laid out late Sunday, The Daily Star newspaper said.

“We understand it’s important to fulfil their demands. They will be fulfilled through a gazette notification on announcement of the election schedule,” he told the media after Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda announced the poll schedule.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, who heads the caretaker government, had repeatedly assured critics at home and abroad that his regime would ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.

Visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also assured by the top military brass that they would provide security during the polls and not interfere with the process.

Bangladesh, which became independent in 1971, has had military-run or military-guided governments between 1975 and 1990.

While the Awami League and some Left parties welcomed the poll schedule announcement, the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies did not seem too happy. Some of BNP’s Islamist allies are resisting the Election Commission’s criterion for being registered as political parties to be able to contest the polls, New Age newspaper said.

The poll panel Sunday gave registration certificate to only one political party - Liberal Democratic Party - and completed the process for awarding certificates to 13 political parties including the Awami League, BNP and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami - the three major players in Bangladesh politics.

BNP secretary general Delwar Hossain reacted cautiously saying that his party and its four-party alliance partners had discussed the announcement and would make their reaction public “in due time”.

Preparing to return home after four months in the US for medical treatment, Awami League president and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, now in Washington, welcomed the announcement of the poll schedule and said “the people’s long wait has ended”, according to the website bdnews24.com.

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