B'desh court suspends all polls for 3 months

All elections have been suspended in Bangladesh, indicating a long spell for the current non-party caretaker government.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2007 13:21 IST

A Bangladesh court has suspended all elections for three months, including elections to the National Assembly, indicating a long spell for the current non-party caretaker government.

Monday's high court order, despite the demand for early polls by political parties, tasks the government with electoral reforms like updating voters' lists and issuing photo identity cards to each voter. This may actually take longer than three months.

The ruling also targets the Election Commission, whose role and officials have been controversial.

The political alliance led by Awami League has been demanding its reconstitution.

The poll body has been asked to explain why it has not updated the voters' lists despite a clear directive by the Supreme Court last year.

A hasty updating was done, amid protests by Awami-led alliance, in time for the Jan 22 polls that were cancelled because of political turmoil.

The caretaker government headed by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed has explained that it is implementing the demands made by political parties.

The Daily Star reported on Tuesday that the government had indicated reconstitution of the Election Commission "in a couple of days", once the present incumbents "are ready to step down".

Retired judge Mahfuzur Rahman, the acting chief election commissioner, is expected to resign, followed by other election commissioners, the newspaper said.

The court's order came in response to a petition by Kazi Mamnur Hasan, a Dhaka voter.

It asked the Election Commission to showcause why it should not be ordered to introduce voter identification cards and arrange transparent ballot boxes for the national election.

Issuing photo identity cards to an electorate of over 70 million could pose problems of finance and logistics, political observers pointed out.

Assured by the government that it would not impose indiscriminate curbs, sections of media have welcomed the government's initiatives.

The Daily Star said in an editorial Tuesday: "Ordinary people expect that the government would clean some of the mess left by elected governments.

But the question is whether it will be possible for it to remove all the ills embedded in the society, and within the state's institutions, during its tenure.

"Many political observers hope that it will set an example, in certain core areas, that it can remove bottlenecks and establish checks and balances, necessary for good governance, in public institutions so as to create congenial environment for a fair and credible general election."

First Published: Jan 30, 2007 13:21 IST