Caretaker system abolished
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. ◆