Thursday, January 12, 2012

AL demands 'strong' EC

Ruling Awami League urged the president Thursday to form an independent and powerful Election Commission which will be able to hold elections in a free and fair manner.

On a query about the BNP’s demand for restoration of the caretaker government, Ashraf said neither the president nor the AL raised the issue during the day’s talk as the issue was not on the agenda of the dialogue.

The BNP, which sat with the president the previous day, had urged Zillur Rahman to take the initiative to restore the caretaker government system before the reconstitution of an Election Commission.

Ashraf was speaking at a press briefing at AL Dhanmondi office convened to share what they had discussed during the talks that continued for nearly one hour beginning at 11:00am.

Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, party's senior presidium members, led a 15-member AL delegation to the talks held at Bangabhaban, the president’s official residence.

“The party delegation has no other option to discussing the Election Commission reconstitution issue with the president during the dialogue,” AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam said emerging from the talks.

The invitation letter which the president had sent them had only one agenda: the discussion of reconstitution of the EC, Ashraful said, adding: “So we had no other issues to discuss with him."

Senior Awami League leaders Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, Abdul Jalil, Suranjit Sengupta, advocate Yusuf Hussain Humayun, Begum Matia Chowdhury, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, advocate Sahara Kharun, Kazi Zafarullah, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Obaidul Quader, Syed Ashraful Islam, Mohammad Nasim and Hasan Mahmud were also on the delegation.

The government in June last year scrapped the caretaker system through the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, allowing parliamentary polls to be held under political government. The main opposition party opposed the amendment and now maintains it will not go to polls unless these are held under a non-party caretaker government.

Against this backdrop, the president on December 22, 2011 started the talks with the political parties to discuss formation of the new Election Commission. The tenure of the current commission expires on February 14 this year.

So far, 22 political parties including the main opposition BNP joined the talks. Of them, at least 13 parties recommended reinstatement of the caretaker system to hold the next election.

The BNP, which sat with the president on Wednesday, urged Zillur Rahman to take the initiative to restore the caretaker government system before the formation of a new Election Commission.

However, seven political parties, most of whom are partners of the Awami League-led ruling alliance, spoke against the system. They instead stressed the need for strengthening the election commission.