Vote plan sparks political party doubts
Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The two top political parties of the country said on Sunday they still doubt the military-backed interim government's democratic intentions, even though it has set a date for parliamentary elections, reports Reuters.

Fakhruddin Ahmed, chief of the interim authority, announced on Saturday night that the parliamentary polls would be held on December 18, within the timeline he had promised after taking charge in January 2007.
 
He said the election would be free, fair and credible, and he would ease or end nearly two years of emergency rules close to the polls to allow free campaigning.
 
But ex-prime minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and fellow ex-premier Begum Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) both expressed disappointment the emergency was not lifted immediately, which they say is crucial to set the stage for a fair election.
 
Fakhruddin, in a televised speech before leaving for New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting, said he had now taken the country toward restoration of democracy, and warned against attempts to thwart his plans.
 
Amid an upbeat business mood, the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) on Sunday recorded its highest turnover in three months, 4.34 billion taka ($63 million).
 
ACTION AT RIGHT TIME
 
The European Commission welcomed the announcement of election dates and indicated it would send observers.
 
"The European Commission encourages all stakeholders to work in a constructive spirit towards successful holding of the elections," it said in a statement on Sunday.
 
Analysts who previously accused the interim government of abandoning a fight against corruption, toned down their criticism.
 
"Now the ball is in the politicians' court," said Professor Ataur Rahman, chairman of Bangladesh Political Science Association.
 
Defence and political analyst, Syed Mohammad Ibrahim, said parties should enter the election to save the country from further turmoil.
 
They both said setting the national poll date was the right action at the right time.
 
The BNP and Awami League said Fakhruddin had accepted a popular demand by giving the parliament vote date, but they opposed plans to hold rural upazilla (sub-district) elections on Dec. 24 and 28, closely on the heels of the national polls.
 
Upazillas form the rural power base for all the major parties, especially the BNP and Awami, which field many of their local leaders in the elections.
 
Even as the major parties hit the government over the election plans, smaller parties have criticised it for what they see as a retreat from its promise to go after top politicians over alleged corruption and abuse of power in the years before the interim authority took over.
 
But political analysts and diplomats say an election without the BNP and Awami League, the country's biggest parties, would not be credible.

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