Dhaka, May 13 (Reuters): Bangladesh’s election commission engaged the country’s army today for help in drawing up an accurate voters’ list so it can hold national polls next year.
The army-backed interim government, headed by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed, has pledged to hold a free, fair and credible election before the end of 2008.
But, of the 91.4 million names on a voters’ list prepared in 2006, more than 12 million are fake or duplicates, the US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs says, posing an obstacle to transparent balloting.
“We have started talks to see how effectively we can engage soldiers to prepare a flawless voters’ list for the coming election,” chief election commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda told reporters. The commission said last month it would require some 18 months to prepare the list, using photograph identifications.
A senior election commission official said the army would work from temporary camps to register eligible voters.
The interim government, which took over on January 11, says the army is supporting them in carrying out reforms and combating corruption to create conditions for a free and fair election.
A state of emergency was imposed in January in the wake of widespread violence between rival political activists. A vote planned for January 22 was cancelled and political activity banned.
A main issue Bangladesh faces is the reform of its political parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BN) and Awami League, led by former Prime Ministers Begum Khaleda Zia and her rival Sheikh Hasina, respectively.
Trouble for Khaleda
Khaleda’s BNP appeared to have plunged into deeper crisis amid growing demands for internal reforms.
Veteran BNP leader and Bangladesh’s longest-serving finance minister Saifur Rahman joined the intra-party campaign to clip the party chief’s “unlimited power”.