UN chief calls B`desh PM to discuss crisis over poll reforms

Last Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 - 19:31

Dhaka: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday said she seeks a peaceful negotiated settlement of a political crisis over electoral reforms, even as UN chief Ban-Ki-moon called her to discuss the current impasse over the issue.

"Our prime minister assured the UN Secretary General that her government believes in peaceful settlement of the dispute through negotiations (with the opposition) to continue the democratic process as they talked for around 30 minutes," the premier`s press adviser Iqbal Sobha Chowdhury said.

Hasina told Ban that the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by her arch-rival Khaleda Zia, was welcome to float their proposal for an amended electoral system during the upcoming parliament session next month.

"She said her government believes in transition of power through a peaceful and credible election," Chowdhury said.

Election is due in the country in January next year. Hasina expressed confidence that the next elections will be held in due time and people will be able to cast their votes freely.

The conversation came five days after Hasina said she would not budge an inch on opposition demand of holding the next elections under a non-party caretaker administration.

"I believe in constitution and the election will be in line with the Constitution. I won`t budge an inch," she said on Sunday at her official residence.

The premier`s comment plunged Bangladesh`s politics into a deeper impasse as Zia responded the very next day, saying her party "will never accept any election under Hasina`s government" and the government must restore the now scraped caretaker system through a constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, Chowdhury said the premier told Ban that she had earlier offered a dialogue, which the opposition responded with a 48-hour ultimatum and patronised violent street protests, mobilising Islamist extremists.

Ban`s call came three months after he sent an envoy to Dhaka for negotiations with the two major parties to end the impasse as the UN warned that the failure to reach a consensus could invite another military intervention.

Hasina herself expressed fears last month that country`s democratic process might be stalled for at least next 10 years if any such "unconstitutional government" was installed due to the current political impasse over the electoral system.

Awami League scrapped the caretaker system two years ago through a constitutional amendment, in line with a Supreme Court judgement that ruled against installation of a non-elected government for election oversight.

Since the system was scraped, BNP has staged violent street protests leaving scores of people dead. But Awami League insisted the caretaker system proved counter productive as it allowed army backed regime to declare emergency rule in 2007, sending Hasina and Zia to jail.

PTI



First Published: Friday, August 23, 2013 - 19:31

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