|General election will be held on Dec 29|
|Monday, 24 November 2008|
Dhaka, Nov 23 (bdnews24.com) – The general election will be held on Dec. 29 and Upazila Parishad polls on Jan. 22, the chief election commissioner announced on Sunday after a week of intense negotiations between the Election Commission, government and major parties.
"The changes have been carried out to ensure the participation of all parties in the election and we hope that these amendments will be acceptable to all," ATM Shamsul Huda said at a crowded press conference at the EC Secretariat.
Despite the demands of the political parties, the clause 91 (E) of the Representation of the People Order (Amendment) Ordinance 2008 that gives the EC power to cancel candidacy would remain, he said.
Huda added that the EC would ask the government to the lift emergency rule from the last day for the withdrawal of nomination.
"I will make strong recommendations to the government for lifting of the emergency rule from that point of time."
According to the third amendment to the electoral schedule, the last date for the submission of nomination for the parliamentary election is Nov. 30.
Selection and evaluation of the nomination will be done on Dec. 3 and 4 and Dec. 11 is the last date for the withdrawal of nomination.
For the Upazilla election, the last date for filing nomination is Dec. 13 and the selection and evaluation will be done on Dec. 17 and 19.
The last date for withdrawal is Dec. 31.
"To have a planned and proper election, the Election Commission moved along with a plan and overcoming a lot of hurdles the schedule for the ninth parliament and third Upazilla elections was declared on Nov. 2. After that many candidates started taking nomination papers."
The tops polls official said some potential candidates had trouble gathering the eight mandatory pieces of information as required by the new electoral laws and the court.
The time limit for submission of nomination, therefore, was extended from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23.
"Efforts were underway to bring the four-party alliance to the polls and, eventually, representatives of the four-party came to the commission for discussions," said Huda.
"In the last two days, we had discussions with representatives from both the BNP-led four-party and the Awami League-led 14-party alliances."
He also said after listening to both parties they tried to formulate an 'acceptable' programme.
"We had some points that needed clarification and the parties did that. Based on this, the Election Commission declared the new dates."
"We hope that the changed schedule will be acceptable to all and the next polls will be a joyous event."
"The submitted nominations so far have been accepted but with the new time frame there is chance for the submission of more nominations."
Huda sought to allay fears about the RPO clause, saying the law would not be be abused. He said there would not be any misgivings if the clause was read carefully.
"Though there is a call from the political parties for the cancellation of the clause 91 (E), we think that is impossible.
"There is a misconceived idea about this clause that is fuelling unjust fear and concern."
"If the Election Commission receives a written complaint that suggests slight changes to the clause, then that will be taken into consideration."
Once the EC received written complaint about rules violation against a candidate, an investigation would be ordered followed by a hearing, he added.
If the accusations were proved and candidacy cancelled, then voting in that constituency would be suspended. Later, a fresh voting would take place with a new candidate, he explained.
"After the withdrawal of candidacy, electoral campaigning will be carried out in an atmosphere free of the state of emergency," the CEC said.
Election commissioners M Sohul Hossain and M Sakhawat Hossain were also present at the press briefing.
Huda had held a series of parleys with top government functionaries and representatives of political parties from morning, leading up to the televised announcement.
He announced on Saturday that the general election, scheduled for Dec. 18, would be deferred. The EC claims that the changes are being carried out to ensure an all-inclusive election.
The top election official met with the chief adviser early in the day, but CAO spokespersons would not divulge details about the likely decision.
Back in his office at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Huda sat with his fellow commissioners before a meeting with BNP.
Asked about the new date for polls in between the two meetings, the chief election commissioner said, "Wait, you will soon get the answer."
A BNP team comprising party vice president MK Anwar, joint secretary Nazrul Islam Khan and office secretary Rizvi Ahmed met with the EC officials at around 2.30pm.
A similar meeting was held with Awami League representatives, acting general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam and co-chairman of the party's election committee HT Imam, from 4-5pm.
After a week of intense negotiations in the face of BNP's demand to push back the election date last Monday, the CEC said they were ready to reschedule the national election if all parties agreed.
The original election schedule was announced in Nov. 2 but amended twice on Nov. 9 and on Nov. 19 keeping the election dates—parliamentary polls on Dec 18 and Upazila polls on Dec. 28—the same.
The previous eight parliament elections in Bangladesh were held on the: 7 March 1973, 18 February 1979, 7 May 1986, 3 March 1988, 27 February 1991, 15 February 1996, 12 June 1996 and 1 October 2001.
The EC has ordered that all offices, banks and financial institutes should remain open on polls day this year.
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