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

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. 

UN adopts global migration pact rejected by US and others

Updated 10 min 28 sec ago

UN adopts global migration pact rejected by US and others

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed nations needed migration
  • Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out

MARRAKESH, Morocco: The United Nations on Monday adopted a deal aimed at improving the way the world copes with rising migration, but almost 30 countries stayed away from the ceremony in Morocco.

The pact, meant to foster cooperation on migration, was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the US, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting on Monday.

Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out. Six more, among them Israel and Bulgaria, are debating whether to quit, a UN spokesman said after the pact was adopted. He did not say whether the rest of the countries absent from the conference in Marrakesh might also pull out.

With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the UN began work on the non-binding pact after more than 1 million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

But President Donald Trump’s administration said the global approach to the issue was not compatible with US sovereignty.

Since July, the accord, which addresses issues such as how to protect migrants, integrate them and send them home, has been criticized by mostly right-wing European politicians who say it could increase immigration from African and Arab countries.

Angela Merkel, accused by critics of worsening the refugee crisis by opening Germany’s borders in 2015, said cooperation was the only answer to tackle the world’s problems.

“The pact is worth fighting for,” the German chancellor, one of around a dozen national leaders in Marrakesh, told the forum. “It’s about time that we finally tackle migration together.”

Without naming Trump or his “America First” stance, she said multilateralism was the way “to make the world a better place.” 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed nations needed migration.

“In the many places where fertility is declining and life expectancy is rising, economies will stagnate and people will suffer without migration,” he said in his opening address.

On Sunday, Chile withdraw from the pact, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel saw the biggest party in his coalition quit in a dispute over the accord.

In November, Austria’s right-wing government, which holds the EU presidency, said it would withdraw, saying the pact would blur the line between legal and illegal migration.

Australia said it would not sign up to a deal it said would compromise its hard-line immigration policy.