Bangladesh scraps caretaker govt for elections

The approval of 15th Amendment Bill 2011 also retains Islam as the state religion.

Dhaka: Bangladesh`s Parliament today
approved a key constitutional amendment bill that scraps the
nonpartisan caretaker system to conduct general elections, a
move termed by the main opposition BNP as aimed at rigging
polls by the incumbent government in the country.

The approval of 15th Amendment Bill 2011 also retains
Islam as the state religion, an issue that has sparked a row
with religious minority groups and civil society bodies
calling it against the secular spirit of the 1972

The parliament passed the bill with a vote of 291-1,
well over the two-thirds majority needed in the 345-member
popular House. The Bangladesh Nationalist party led by former
prime minister Khaleda Zia, which has 38 members, abstained
from the voting.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the ruling
Awami League, has dismissed allegations that the amendments
are aimed at rigging polls.

"This is a historic moment for democracy," Hasina
said, adding "We can`t allow unelected people to oversee
national elections."

The lone independent lawmaker, Fazlul Azim, opposed
the amendments which also brought about a series of changes to
the constitution.

"This will not be good for the future of our
democracy," Azim was quoted as saying.
BNP, which has already taken to the streets over the
issue, warned of fresh protests against the move to end the
interim system. It fears that general elections due in 2014
could be rigged in favour of the ruling party.

BNP supremo Zia will hold an emergency press
conference today when she is expected to announce the party
line against the landmark amendments.

Introduced in 1996 to prevent rigging and acrimonious
row during elections, the country top court recently declared
the system was at odds with the constitution`s main spirit
that the state be governed by elected representatives.


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