EU, US decline to send election observers to Bangladesh

Updated 03 January 2014
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EU, US decline to send election observers to Bangladesh

DHAKA: The European Union has refused to send election observers to Bangladesh, as have the United States and the Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.
“We’re disappointed that the major political parties have not yet reached a consensus on a way to hold free, fair, and credible elections,” Marie Harf, a US State Department spokeswoman told a briefing in Washington.
Meanwhile, sources said that the two candidates vying to represent the Lalbagh constituency, among the minority of seats to be contested by more than one candidate in polls, are both in the ruling Awami League, which is poised to steamroll to victory as the main opposition party sits out the vote.
The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) is boycotting in protest at Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s move to scrap the tradition of letting a caretaker government oversee elections. The impasse undermines the legitimacy of the poll and is fueling worries of economic gridlock and further violence in the impoverised South Asian country of 160 million.
“The acrimony between two of our main leaders has brought this country to where it is now and not just crippled our economy and growth, but also our democratic system,” said Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Citizens for Good Governance, a non-governmental organization.
Either Hasina or BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia has been prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years and there is deep enmity between them.
Pre-election violence that killed more than 100 people, mostly in rural areas, had eased in recent days, although two people were burnt to death early on Friday when opposition activists hurled petrol bombs at a truck in northern Dinajpur, according to police. Five polling centers were set on fire in southeastern Feni, Khaleda’s hometown.
Meanwhile, verdicts in the International Crimes Tribunal investigating atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan have elicited a violent reaction from activists affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami party, an ally of the BNP.
Last month, the first execution resulting from the tribunal was followed by deadly violence against Awami League members.
Hasina has spoken of holding talks following Sunday’s polls with the opposition on the conduct of future elections.
If successful, these could eventually result in another election. The BNP demands that the current electoral process be halted.
Many opposition leaders are in jail or in hiding. Khaleda is under what appears to be house arrest.
“Even if the BNP wanted to sit down to a dialogue, the atmosphere does not exist,” Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a BNP vice chairman who was detained for several hours following a recent visit to Khaleda’s home, told Reuters on Friday.
The Awami League argues that the interim government system has failed in the past.
“The election will be held under a strong and independent Election Commission, not under any unelected people,” Hasina said in a televised speech on Thursday night.
A poll published in Friday’s Dhaka Tribune found support to be evenly split between the two parties, with the BNP backed by 37 percent of respondents and the Awami League 36 percent.
While the military could step in to take power in the event of a breakdown of law and order — which it did in 2007 — it is widely seen as reluctant to do so.
“Sheikh Hasina’s main challenge is to convince the world these elections are credible and because that is not possible she will need a well-planned exit strategy to eventually conduct fair elections,” said Iftekhar Zaman, executive director of global anti-corruption body Transparency International in Bangladesh.


Three people injured when car smashes into Trump Plaza lobby in New York suburb

Updated 3 min 4 sec ago

Three people injured when car smashes into Trump Plaza lobby in New York suburb

  • The luxury residential property in New Rochelle is not where US President Donald Trump and his family have a residence
  • Neither a representative for Trump’s properties nor the New Rochelle police were immediately available for comment

ATLANTA: A car plowed into the main hall of a Trump Plaza in suburban New York on Tuesday night, causing minor injuries to two bystanders and the driver, news media reported.

The luxury residential property in New Rochelle is not where US President Donald Trump and his family have a residence, but was widely reported by national media nonetheless.

A local ABC affiliate said the driver casually got out of his Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe and sat on the sofa in the building’s main hall after the crash at 9 pm in the city north of New York. The crash appeared to be an accident and the driver was being questioned by the police early Wednesday, NBC and other media reported.

There was nothing suspicious about the crash, New Rochelle police told local media. “We would like to thank the first responders for their swift attention to this evening’s incident,” a spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in an emailed statement to ABC News. “We are truly grateful to them for their service.”

Neither a representative for Trump’s properties nor the New Rochelle police were immediately available to Reuters early Wednesday for comment.