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Bangladesh Election Commissioner Hints at Partial Lifting of Emergency Rule

  • Steve Herman

Bangladesh's election commissioner is rejecting assertions by political leaders and the new U.S. ambassador in Dhaka that the state of emergency needs to be lifted before polling can take place. VOA correspondent Steve Herman in our South Asia bureau in New Delhi has details.

The chief election commissioner of Bangladesh says there should be no problem holding promised national polling before the end of the year, even if the state of emergency is not totally lifted.

Chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda tells VOA News that as long as the army-backed government lifts some restrictions to allow public rallies, meetings, door-to-door campaigning and other normal campaign activity, it will be possible to hold fair elections.

"We are not bothered whether they [the government] have some other things in their mind about anti-corruption or hauling up the criminals," he said. "I think they want to carry on these activities until the end of this government."

The new U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, James Moriarty is expressing skepticism that satisfactory polling can take place under emergency rule. In his first appearance before reporters since he arrived in Dhaka this month, the ambassador said the United States fully supports the caretaker government's efforts to restore democracy.

"We want to see credible elections in this country and we want to see it happen by the end of this year," he said.

Chief election commissioner Huda says there are no technical barriers in meeting that deadline - voter registration is on target, constituencies have been re-organized and all polling stations have been selected.

"We have absolutely no doubt in our mind in holding the election," he said. "We are right on track as we announced in our roadmap."

Under the plan, political parties have until the end of June to register for the election, which is supposed to be held before December 31.

The Awami League says it will not participate in elections under a state of emergency. Its dominant figure, former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is among 170 political figures detained by the military-backed government in its anti-corruption campaign. Also being held is former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the head of the Awami League's traditional rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

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