Care­taker sys­tem abol­ished

Southasia - - -

The Bangladeshi par­lia­ment has over­turned a 15-yearold re­quire­ment that gen­eral elec­tions be over­seen by non-par­ti­san care­taker gov­ern­ments. The 345-mem­ber leg­is­la­ture passed the amend­ment by 291 to one, in a vote boy­cotted by the main op­po­si­tion Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP).

The sys­tem was in­tro­duced in the mid-1990s in an ef­fort to end vi­o­lence and fraud that of­ten marred vot­ing in the coun­try. Un­der the ar­range­ment, a care­taker au­thor­ity of tech­nocrats stayed in of­fice for 90 days, man­dated to or­ga­nize the elec­tion and trans­fer power to the newly elected gov­ern­ment within that time­frame.

The op­po­si­tion has de­nounced the move, ar­gu­ing that it could al­low in­cum­bent ad­min­is­tra­tions to rig fu­ture vote. They have vowed to protest against the move by a con­tin­u­ing se­ries of gen­eral strikes and street protests.

Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina has de­nied that the move is de­signed to al­low her gov­ern­ment to rig the next vote. “This is a his­toric mo­ment for democ­racy,” she told par­lia­ment after the vote. “We can’t al­low un­elected peo­ple to over­see na­tional elec­tions.”

The Premier was highly crit­i­cal of the last mil­i­tary­backed care­taker gov­ern­ment of 2006-8. She said that it was wrong that it stayed be­yond its man­dated three months and de­layed vot­ing by about two years. ◆

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