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Monday, June 23, 2008
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Country gets into election gears

Grassroots leaders overlook major parties' boycott mode, prepare for campaign

The country gets into election gears for the first time since emergency was declared last year although major political parties are still tuned to the boycott mode even after the Election Commission (EC) declared poll schedules for city corporations and municipalities on June 20.

The BNP-led four-party coalition has already threatened to resist the local government polls while the Awami League (AL) has demanded withdrawal of the announced schedule and holding of the parliamentary election first.

The grassroots level leaders of all major political parties, especially the AL and BNP, have, however, already started campaigns for the local government polls despite opposition from the high commands of the two major parties.

Talking to The Daily Star, many grassroots level leaders of the BNP said they would take part in the polls no matter what the party decides. Many AL leaders said the grassroots level leaders would take part in the local body election under a different banner if the party does not formally take part in it.

The BNP might come up with its formal stance tomorrow after consulting with Chairperson Khaleda Zia who would be brought to the special court tomorrow for standing trial in the Gatco scam case.

The AL will also hold an emergency meeting of its Presidium today at acting party President Zillur Rahman's Gulshan residence and a meeting of the party Central Working Committee on June 26 to decide on a formal stance on the local body polls.

AL Organising Secretary Abdul Mannan told The Daily Star that either the AL would have to take part in the election or boycott it--there is no position in the middle.

Meanwhile, the Jatiya Party (JP) has already said it would take part in the polls and asked party men to elect honest and potential candidates.

Addressing a meeting with the grassroots level leaders of Rajshahi division at Rangpur Town Hall yesterday, JP Chairman HM Ershad said the BNP-led four-party alliance would not be able to resist the local government elections because it had become the demand of the people of the country.

"People will foil their attempt to resist the local government elections," Ershad added, reports our correspondent in Rangpur.

Ershad praised the government for reintroducing the upazila parishad.

Asked about the government's position on the four-party alliance's threat to resist the polls, Communications Adviser Ghulam Quader yesterday told reporters that any attempt to resist local government elections slated for August 4 would be unwise.

"I do not think the political parties will create obstacle to holding of the local government elections...Maybe we have not been able to communicate with them effectively...We will try to convince them; they will certainly understand," Quader said.

The local government elections are non-political and the caretaker government is not any party to contest the polls, he said, adding, "So, it is not logical to resist the elections."

The government would like to see decentralisation of power, he said, pointing out that elections are on the EC roadmap.

On holding the upazila elections, Quader said the High Court has laid down strong and clear instructions in this regard which has to be followed.

But the Workers' Party termed the communications adviser's speech "unfounded". The government is holding the local government election going beyond its constitutional jurisdiction and complicating the political situation, it said in a statement.

Addressing an extended meeting of Bagerhat district unit of the party, AL Organising Secretary Mannan said the government should hold the national election first to overcome the existing crises in the country. He demanded that the government withdraw the local government electoral schedule "to show respect to the people's demands".

Chaired by district AL President Dr Mozammel Hossain, the meeting directed party leaders to strengthen the organisation for the polls and press home the party's six-point demand including permanent and unconditional release of Sheikh Hasina, lifting of the state of emergency, and announcement of parliamentary poll schedule.

GRASSROOTS LEVEL POLL CAMPAIGN
Our Mymensingh correspondent Aminul Islam reports that following announcement of the electoral schedule aspirant candidates for the posts of municipal mayor and ward councillors in Phulbaria Municipality launched their electoral campaign.

The candidates include local BNP leaders--Mujibur Rahman, the incumbent chairman of the municipality and President of municipal BNP unit, Abdullahel Mustaq, Chand Mahmud Sarker and Mohammad Kabir Hossain, and AL leaders Golam Kibria and Nurul Islam.

Abdullahel Mustaq told The Daily Star that the environment is favourable for the election.

Our correspondent in Sylhet reports: Election to Golapganj Municipality is scheduled for August 4. This is the second election for the small township since its inception in 2001.

Meanwhile, about 100 aspirants for the post of ward councillors were disappointed yesterday as they were informed that the nomination forms from the EC did not yet arrive.

Deputy Election Commissioner of Sylhet Division Khondker Mizanur Rahman said the nomination papers would be available from today.

Detained Sylhet City Corporation Mayor Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, city unit AL General Secretary Misbah Uddin Siraj, sadar upazila Chairman Babrul Hossain Babul, BNP city unit General Secretary Nasim Hossain, former president of the district unit BNP MA Haque, JP leaders Abdus Samad Nazrul and Kunu Mia, and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Dr Shafiqur Rahman are the probable candidates for city corporation mayor.

The probable candidates for Golapganj Municipality mayor include sitting Chairman Zakaria Ahmed Paplu, former UP chairman and AL Joint Secretary Sirajul Jabbar Chowdhury, former UP chairman Fazlul Haque, municipal AL General Secretary Syed Misbah Uddin, upazila Juba Dal chief Alekuzzaman, municipal BNP Secretary Mushfiqur Rahman Mohi and JP leader Mamunur Rashid. Besides, over 100 candidates are there for the councillorship of ward-9. About 25 women are expected to contest for the three reserved seats.

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