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Taranco asks EC if polls could be deferred

Many things possible if rival camps reach consensus: CEC

Staff Correspondent

The UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, calls on the chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, at the Election Commission office in Dhaka on Sunday. — New Age photo
The UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, calls on the chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, at the Election Commission office in Dhaka on Sunday. — New Age photo

The visiting UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernández-Taranco on Sunday inquired whether it was possible for the Election Commission to defer the polls after political parties and civic forum leaders preferred its rescheduling for an inclusive election.
The chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, in reply to Fernández-Taranco’s quiry said that it could defer the election schedules by some days within the legal and constitutional framework if the United Nations could broker an agreement between the ruling and opposition camps.
A delegation of senior citizens also told Fernández-Taranco that the process for holding a unilateral election on January 5 should be stopped for a while and that still there was legal scope to defer the polls so that the election could be held with participation of all parties.
The CEC after a meeting with Fernández-Taranco said two weeks had passed since the election schedules were announced and the situation worsened as there was no progress towards a consensus between the rival camps.
Rakibuddin said he thought many things could be done if there was a consensus between the rival political parties but that should happen under the legal frameworks.
‘As the UN delegation is holding talks with all the stakeholders to find a way for a peaceful and inclusive election, we should not talk much right at the moment. We, rather, should wait with a hope for a solution,’ Rakibuddin told newsmen after his meeting with Fernández-Taranco.
Senior jurist Kamal Hossain met Fernández-Taranco with a delegation of senior citizens at Sonargaon hotel where they told the UN assistant secretary general that ‘the train of a one-sided election should be stopped for a while.’
Emerging from the meeting with Fernández-Taranco, the delegation comprising senior jurist Kamal Hossain, jurist Shahdeen Malik, Citizens for Good Governance secretary Badiul Alam Majumder and former caretaker government adviser Jamilur Reza Chowdhury said the UN preferred an inclusive election and had not offered any formula. It wanted a homegrown solution to ensure a credible and non-violent election participated by all political parties, they added.
The delegation members said Fernández-Taranco had some queries over the country’s situation and they tried
to explain but there was no discussion on caretaker government which was the prime demand of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies for joining the polls.
Two members of the delegation – Badiul Alam Majumdar and Shahdeen Malik – said there was no discussion on caretaker government in their hour-long meeting with Fernández-Taranco.  
‘Nobody wants a one-sided election. What is happening now is unexpected…We told them [UN team] that the train for holding a one-sided election should be stopped for a while,’ said Kamal Hossain after the meeting.   
Kamal said Fernández-Taranco wanted to know whether it was possible to defer the election schedule and in reply he said there was no legal bar to rescheduling the polls. ‘The chief election commissioner several times said he is ready to reschedule the polls if the parties reach an understanding. He had referred to “reaching an understanding” thrice in recent past,’ he added.
‘We need a peaceful election. We must have the patience to have a peaceful election…They [UN] also want a peaceful and acceptable election with the participation of all,’ Kamal said.
Shahdeen Malik said they wanted holding of a peaceful election with the participation of all like the past one held on December 29, 2008 which was contested by all parties and the turnout was above 87 per cent.
Jatiya Party secretary general ABM Ruhul Amin Hawlader said the party had requested the United Nations to take initiatives for rescheduling of the polls so that all political parties could participate.
‘Our chairman [Ershad] told the UN team that Jatiya Party would contest the polls only if all political parties contest it,’ Hawlader told newsmen immediately after a meeting between Jatiya Party and Fernández-Taranco at the Baridhara office of HM Ershad.
‘Ershad reiterated that his party would contest the polls only if all political parties participate in it,’ Hawlader told newsmen.
‘Jatiya Party wants the UN to play a role,’ Hawlader said but did not explain the nitty-gritty of the ‘role’.
‘Election is not possible right now as the atmosphere is not conducive,’ said party presidium member GM Quader, also the minister for commerce.
Fernández-Taranco also met the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, Pankaj Saran, at the high commission in Gulshan in the afternoon.
He also met BNP vice-chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury in the evening at his house in Banani and talked for about an hour.
After the meeting, Shamsher, also a former secretary for foreign affairs, told reporters that discussions were going on between BNP and the visiting UN team. He declined to divulge the contents of their discussion since ‘the matter is sensitive’.
Shamsher said that Fernández-Taranco had met BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia on Saturday and would meet her again on Monday. ‘Nothing more can be said right at the moment,’ he added.
A meeting between Fernández-Taranco’s and a Jamaat-e-Islami delegation was scheduled for the day but it was postponed. Jamaat’s assistant secretary general Abdur Razzaque said the meeting was postponed by the UN.
Fernández-Taranco arrived in Dhaka on Friday evening amid the country’s murky political situation that has cast a shadow on its January 5 general election.  
The UN envoy had meetings with prime minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia Saturday evening.


The UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, calls on the chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, at the Election Commission office in Dhaka on Sunday. — New Age photo

The UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, calls on the chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, at the Election Commission office in Dhaka on Sunday. — New Age photo

Kamal Hossain briefs journalists after a meeting between citizens’ representatives and the visiting UN assistant secretary general, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, at Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka on Sunday afternoon. — New Age photo

Kamal Hossain briefs journalists after a meeting between citizens’ representatives and the visiting UN assistant secretary general, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, at Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka on Sunday afternoon. — New Age photo



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