Friday, January 12, 2007

Resignation of Chief Adviser and deferment of polling day

From yesterday's Hansard

Bangladesh: Elections

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assessment they have made of current electoral developments in Bangladesh.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, we are deeply concerned that the Awami League alliance has declared its intention to boycott elections on 22 January. The people of Bangladesh deserve a free, fair, credible, peaceful and universally accepted election. For that to happen, all parties should feel that they are able to participate in the elections as of necessity. We look to the caretaker Government to create conditions under which full participation will be possible. In the interests of all Bangladeshis we urge all parties to work constructively to resolve their differences.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister think there might be a role here for the Commonwealth in finding a replacement for the chief adviser, who is the chief obstacle to free and fair elections, and also perhaps in providing the resources that are needed to clean up the register before a polling day that would have to be deferred? Are any other initiatives being considered by the international community to ensure that the people of Bangladesh get a fair choice on 22 January or some time thereafter?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, completing an appropriate electoral register would certainly take one beyond 22 January, although I am advised that the terms of Article 123(3) of Bangladesh’s constitution do not give scope for that much flexibility; the requirement is said to be absolute. I am no expert on the Bangladeshi constitution, as your Lordships will understand, but that is what I am advised.

As for the Commonwealth, I believe that it can certainly play a role. It has a fine record—Don McKinnon as Secretary-General has a particularly fine record—in achieving successful elections and, in many cases, working in the inter-election period in order to ensure that the right machinery is there, that voters are registered correctly and that when the electoral monitors come in for the last phase they are able to see a credible election. Such steps would be invaluable at this time.

From the Daily Star, Dhaka, today

Emergency declared; Iajuddin quits as chief adviser
Adviser Fazlul Haque to act as CA for couple of days; 9 other advisers resign; polls effectively postponed; 11pm-5am curfew imposed
Shakhawat Liton

President Iajuddin Ahmed last night resigned from the post of chief adviser to the caretaker government, declaring a state of emergency in the country--amid growing political crisis over election--after 16 years since restoration of democracy through a mass upsurge.

Nine advisers to the caretaker government also resigned from their posts while Justice Fazlul Haque, the senior most among the advisers, took the charge as acting chief adviser.

The council of advisers will be reconstituted in a day or two to hold a credible election within shortest possible time as the January 22 parliamentary election has been postponed.

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