Vol. 5 Num 924 Thu. January 04, 2007  
Front Page

Grand alliance boycotts Jan 22 election
Hasina places a host of demands including Iajuddin's resignation from CA's post, proper updating of voter list

Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance yesterday announced it will boycott and resist the parliamentary election set for January 22, alleging that all the electoral preparations by the government so far have been for 'stage-managing the next election in favour of BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance'.

In defence of its latest decision, AL President Sheikh Hasina at a crowded news briefing alleged that an atmosphere conducive to a fair election has yet to come to existence although only 19 days are left for it; instead of a neutral caretaker government President Iajuddin Ahmed established a shadow government of BNP-Jamaat; a flawless voter list safeguarding the people's right to universal franchise has not been prepared yet; and the administration still remains politicised.

"Assuming the office of chief adviser to the caretaker government illegally, Iajuddin Ahmed wants to hold an election without a valid voter list. A free and fair election is not possible with the current voter was prepared only to hold an election designed in line with the blueprint provided by BNP-Jamaat alliance. We can't give legitimacy to such an election, and for this, we have decided not to participate in a stage-managed election," the AL president announced in the briefing organised by the grand alliance at Hotel Sheraton in the capital.

"We will not contest the January election and decided to withdraw our candidatures today. Our position is very clear...we want a free and fair election so that accountability and transparency of the next government are ensured," said Hasina, chief of the grand alliance comprising AL-led 14-party, Jatiya Party (Ershad), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Zaker Party, a faction of Islami Oikya Jote and Islamic Front Bangladesh.

Asked whether the grand alliance will be responsible for any constitutional crisis arising from its election boycott, Hasina said, "A constitutional crisis can be avoided by holding of fair election following Iajuddin's resignation… a constitutional crisis will be created if a farcical election is held by stealing votes."

Asked to comment about BNP and Jamaat's eagerness to participate in the January 22 election, Hasina said the people will resist the election as nobody except BNP-Jamaat-led alliance is in favour of a 'stage-managed' election.

JP Chairman HM Ershad, LDP President Prof AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) President Hasanul Haque Inu also spoke at the briefing and vowed to resist the January election at any cost.

Ershad said, "The January election will be resisted, a farcical election will not be allowed to be held.”

Badruddoza Chowdhury said, "We can't accept an illegal election under an illegal caretaker government. It will be tantamount to a betrayal with the nation.”

On behalf of the grand alliance, Hasina demanded immediate resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed from the post of chief adviser (CA) and appointment of a new CA, reconstitution of the Election Commission in line with the package proposal prepared by the council of advisers, changes in the top levels of intelligence agencies, depoliticisation of the administration, a fresh election schedule following proper updating of the voter list, suspending Rapid Action Battalion's (Rab) activities till the election is over, and allowing Ershad and others to participate in the poll -- whose nomination papers had been 'illegally cancelled'.

Hasina cited some flaws on the already once 'updated' voter list and said, "Our apprehension is that the Election Commission will provide to the presiding and polling officers the voter list that excludes the names of leaders, activists and supporters of the grand alliance, and of the people of minority communities.”

Referring to the grand alliance announced countrywide 48-hour blockade on January 7 and 8, the AL chief warned if the demands are not met even after that, then the president's official residence, Bangabhaban, will be blockaded indefinitely.

She also called for holding rallies and processions across the country on Friday and urged the people to join the current movement 'once again to protect the people's voting right'.

"We will continue our movement to protect the people's right to vote. A free and fair election is required to save the country from the plague of corruption and violations of human rights," Hasina said adding, "We believe victory will be ours. A free and fair election will be held through formation of a new caretaker government."

Replying to the question, why in her view the BNP-led alliance wants to hold a one sided election, the AL president said, "Because they want to rig the election. I urge the people to resist the vote-thieves."

Hasina asked the administration, and the armed forces and other law enforcers to stand by the people against the 'vote-thieves'.

"They will use the armed forces to hold a one sided election. The intelligence agencies are already being used for election engineering but the people will neither accept nor allow any rigged election. Nobody can stand against the people."

Explaining the alliance's earlier decision to participate in the poll, Hasina said, "We tried to participate in the poll for the greater interest of democracy… after filing nomination papers, we noticed that the chief adviser had started engineering the upcoming election following the diktats of BNP and Jamaat.”

"We have been forced to take the decision of boycotting the January poll as there is no other way to protect the people's right to universal franchise," she said.

Accusing the Election Commission (EC) of not applying the electoral rules equally for all candidates, Hasina said, "As part of the election engineering, the Election Commission cancelled Ershad's nomination papers illegally."

The AL-led grand alliance that had announced a boycott of the upcoming election under the current schedule once before on December 18 from a grand rally, suddenly on December 26 filed nomination papers to contest the poll.

At the time, the grand alliance did not however formally announced whether it would remain in the race. It had repeatedly said it would announce its decision on January 3, the last date for withdrawing the nomination papers.

Following a series of hectic meetings among its components over the Eid holidays, the grand alliance finally yesterday decided to boycott the January 22 election.

From the news briefing, the grand alliance chief asked the alliance candidates to withdraw their nomination papers prompting a large number of senior leaders to rush to the EC for withdrawing their candidacies.

The leaders of the grand alliance asked the acting chief election commissioner (CEC) to postpone the electoral process to save the country from a probable disaster. Acting CEC Justice Mahfuzur Rahman however said the election will be held on January 22 as per the schedule.

Soon after the grand alliance' decision, eight political parties including Communist Party of Bangladesh announced that they will also boycott the election.

Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad congratulated the AL chief for 'the brave decision'. "We will have to resist this farcically staged election. The leaders and activists of Jatiya Party will risk their lives in this struggle."

LDP President Badruddoza Chowdhury said, "The effort to legalise an illegal election by an illegal government will not be accepted. We as the grand alliance will not be a part of legitimising such an election. It will be a betrayal with the people if we participate in it."

The former president also said, "Taking part in the January election will be like committing suicide because of the chief adviser's conspiracy."

Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon said, "We cannot emphasise the constitutional provision of holding the election within the 90-day tenure of the caretaker government over the constitutional provision of having a proper voter list."

JSD President Hasanul Haq Inu said "Iajuddin's sole objective has been to conspire to bring Khaleda back to power by rigging the polls."

"Boycotting the polls and withdrawing our nominations is the only rational political and democratic option open to us for ensuring a correct voter list for the people," Inu said adding, "Our demands have been concentrated into one: remove Iajuddin!"

Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina shows a flawed voter list at a press briefing yesterday while announcing boycott of the January 22 polls. PHOTO: STAR