Bangladesh poll preparation in full swing

Kamal Hossain, a leader of the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyafront, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 22, 2018. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Bangladesh poll preparation in full swing

  • At stake in the Dec. 30 election are all 350 seats in the country's single-body parliament
  • More than 2,000 candidates are expected to compete across 300 constituencies in this year’s race

DHAKA: More than 104 million Bangladeshis will cast their vote on Dec. 30 in a general election featuring all major political parties. 

The Bangladesh Parliament is a single-house legislative body with 350 seats, unlike India and the UK where there are upper and lower houses.

The election is mostly a two-horse race between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the main opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP). But the Jatiya Party (JP), led by former President Hussain Mohammad Ershad, and Islamic parties are expected to do well in their strongholds.

The BNP boycotted the 2014 election, which was also shunned by international observers and overshadowed by violence.

More than 2,000 candidates are expected to compete across 300 constituencies in this year’s race. 

Mohammad Asaduzzaman, from the Bangladesh Election Commission (EC), said there were 35,000 local election observers and representations from the US, France, Germany, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Japan to observe the poll.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led her administration’s last Cabinet meeting on Monday, while the EC is finalizing nomination papers from aspiring lawmakers.

Candidates can officially begin campaigning from Dec. 10 but must stop a day before the vote, according to EC guidelines.

Prof. Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, founder and chairman of the National Election Observation Council, said it looked as if all parties would engage with the electoral process.

“The opposition alliance, including the BNP, has taken a stand not to leave the election field whatever the situation is. On the other hand, the ruling party also wants to hold a participatory and inclusive election... both the parties at least ‘agreed to disagree’ which is the bottom line of multi-party democracy,” he told Arab News.

There were pockets of the country where votes would go to one party, he explained, but there were other areas where it was harder to predict the outcome.

“In many districts under Barishal, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi and Sylhet divisions voting trends are very mixed and, in the capital Dhaka, it is always unpredictable since candidates originate from different parts of the country and join the poll race here,” he said.

Around half of eligible voters are male, according to EC statistics, and there are 2.7 million young people who will be casting a vote for the first time.

The EC proposed the introduction of electronic voting machines, but the BNP rejected the idea over vote-rigging fears.

To form the government, any political party or coalition will be required to secure at least 151 seats. 


Father of US-born woman who joined Daesh sues over citizenship

Updated 9 min 20 sec ago
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Father of US-born woman who joined Daesh sues over citizenship

  • Hoda Muthana says that she regrets joining the extremists and is willing to face prosecution in the United States
  • “This is a woman who inflicted enormous risk on American soldiers, on American citizens. She is a terrorist. She’s not coming back,” Pompeo said

WASHINGTON: The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Daesh group in Syria sued Thursday to bring her home after the Trump administration took the extraordinary step of declaring that she was not a US citizen.
Hoda Muthana, 24, says that she regrets joining the extremists and is willing to face prosecution in the United States over her incendiary propaganda on behalf of the ruthless but dwindling group.
A day after President Donald Trump declared on Twitter that he had issued orders to bar her, Muthana’s father filed an emergency lawsuit asking a federal court to affirm that his daughter is a US citizen and let her return along with her toddler son, whose father was a Tunisian militant killed in battle.
The brewing legal battle hinges on the murky timeline of bureaucratic paperwork in 1994 when Muthana was born and her father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, left a position at Yemen’s mission to the United Nations.
The US Constitution grants citizenship to everyone born in the country — with the exception of children of diplomats, as they are not under US jurisdiction.
“Upon her return to the United States, Mr. Muthana’s daughter is prepared and willing to surrender to any charges the United States Justice Department finds appropriate and necessary,” said the lawsuit filed with the US District Court in Washington.
“She simply requires the assistance of her government in facilitating that return for herself and her young son,” it said.

In the lawsuit, Ahmed Ali Ahmed said he was asked by Yemen to surrender his diplomatic identity card on June 2, 1994 as the Arab country descended into one of its civil wars. Hoda Muthana was born in New Jersey on October 28 of that year and the family later settled in Hoover, Alabama, a prosperous suburb of Birmingham.
The State Department initially questioned Hoda Muthana’s right to citizenship when her father sought a passport for her as a child because US records showed he had been a diplomat until February 1995, the lawsuit said.
But it said that the State Department accepted a letter from the US mission to the United Nations that affirmed that he had ended his position before his daughter’s birth and granted her a passport.
The lawsuit said that Hoda Muthana was also entitled to citizenship due to her mother as she became a US permanent resident, anticipating the loss of diplomatic status, in July 1994.
Ahmed Ali Muthana additionally asked for the right to send money to support his daughter and grandson, who are being held by US-allied Kurdish fighters at the forefront of fighting the Daesh militants.
She furtively went to Syria in 2014 when the Daesh group was carrying out a grisly campaign of beheadings and mass rape and turned to social media to praise the killings of Westerners.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was named in the lawsuit along with Trump, in a terse statement Wednesday said that Hoda Muthana was not a citizen.
Pompeo did not outline the legal rationale but in an interview Thursday, asked if the key issue was that her father had been a diplomat, Pompeo said, “That’s right.”
“She may have been born here. She is not a US citizen, nor is she entitled to US citizenship,” Pompeo told NBC television’s “Today” show.
In a separate interview with the Fox Business Network, Pompeo dismissed the “heart-strings” pitch in Muthana’s pleas to return home.
“This is a woman who inflicted enormous risk on American soldiers, on American citizens. She is a terrorist. She’s not coming back,” he said.
It is extremely difficult for the United States to strip a person of citizenship, a step taken by Britain in the case of homegrown militants.
Trump’s order on Muthana came even though he is pushing other Western countries to bring back hundreds of militants to prosecute at home as the United States prepares to withdraw troops from Syria.