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Global watch group doubts Dhaka's poll preparedness

The report by a US lawmaker urged political parties to put the country before themselves and engage in a dialogue prior to polls.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2006 13:27 IST

An international watch group has expressed concern at Islamist extremists propagating that elections in Bangladesh are "un-Islamic" and said violence by these groups could disrupt parliamentary polls due next January.

The Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) observed in its report that the government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia had "not been sensitive enough" on a number of issues, including appointment of the head of the caretaker government.

This had fomented controversies leading to a breakdown of political dialogue.

The NDI also raised doubts about preparations by the Election Commission for the parliamentary polls and said lack of public confidence in the poll body was a matter of concern, reported Daily Star.

The new voters' list containing 93 million names was inconsistent with the official census data of 2001 and lacked credibility, it said.

Chief Election Commissioner Justice MA Aziz reacted vehemently, saying the group members "lacked courtesy" and reminded them that Bangladesh was "a sovereign, independent country".

The report, made public by leader of the NDI delegation Tom Dashle, a former US lawmaker, urged the political parties to "put the country before themselves" and engage in a dialogue prior to the elections.

Dashle said the Election Commission could still rectify the shortcomings and restore public confidence. But, for that, they would have to acknowledge the mistakes.

"The CEC may be able to correct the situation, but only if the problem is acknowledged and dealt with. In the absence of a strong, corrective and urgent response, confidence in the chief election commissioner will continue to deteriorate to the point that he should not continue his duties," Dashle warned.

He, like others from the government and NGOs, expressed faith in the Bangladeshi people's desire and commitment for democracy.

Former New Zealand prime minister Mike Moore and former Cambodian minister of women and veterans affairs Mu Sochua are the other members of the NDI team that interacted with the government, the Election Commission, representatives of political parties, NGOs and civil society leaders before submitting its report.

Like the NDI, several bodies sponsored by governments of donor nations, international financial bodies, public affairs watch groups and human rights organisations are either engaged in, or preparing to monitor the situation in Bangladesh prior to the polls.

They receive vocal support from various chambers of commerce and industry that have been urging rival parties to engage in dialogue rather than be in confrontation.

While the 14-party opposition alliance has been taking to the streets to press for electoral reforms and replacement of Justice Aziz, the government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been terming the opposition demands "a conspiracy".