Bangladesh gears up for 2018 general election

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses the 72nd Session of the United Nations General assembly at the UN headquarters. (AFP)
Updated 30 January 2018

Bangladesh gears up for 2018 general election

DHAKA: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is the president of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL), officially launched her election campaign on Tuesday.
The general election in Bangladesh is scheduled to be held by the end of the year.
The prime minister offered a prayer at the holy shrine of Muslim saint Hazrat SHajjalal in Sylhet division, some 300 km from the capital Dhaka, and launched her election campaign there.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), another major political stakeholder, is struggling with the political future of its chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia due to a graft case, which is scheduled to be decided in court on Feb. 8.
Political scientists, however, expect free, fair and inclusive polls to be held some time between Oct. 31 and Dec. 31, 2018.
“In the democratic process, an election is a must. To comply with the constitutional obligation, the AL will take part in the next general election,” said Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, a parliamentarian and organizing secretary of the AL.
Chowdhury told Arab News: “The BNP chairperson’s trial in a graft case is a milestone in establishing the rule of law in a country like Bangladesh. If the BNP goes for vandalizing and anarchy in reaction to the verdict of the case, the people of the country will resist it. People do not condone an anarchic situation anymore.”
Although tension is building for BNP policymakers and its members over the graft case verdict for Zia, who has served as the country’s premier three times, the party feels that the verdict will not have any negative impact on it in the election.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of the BNP, called the graft case against Zia “politically motivated” and claimed that the ruling party was bound to lose its popularity among voters for “harassing” its key political opponent.
Rizvi told Arab News that “if the court declares the verdict against the chairperson, we will protest it strongly in a democratic way.”
The BNP boycotted the general election in 2014, demanding the reintroduction of a caretaker government during the election period, which eventually led to more than half of the current Parliament members being elected uncontested. This year, the BNP has again demanded an “Election Period Assisting Government.”
“The BNP is a pro-election party, and to ensure a level-playing field during the election we are demanding this ‘Election Period Assisting Government.’ Still, we have 11 months in hand and I believe the prime minister of the country also wants an inclusive general election for the next Parliament,” said Rumin Farhana, a barrister and the assistant international affairs secretary of the BNP.
While the two major parties are concerned about the formation and nature of the election period government, the country’s leftist political wing has expressed a different concern.
“The election should be organized by the election commission of the country. The government during that period will only do the ‘routine work’ according to the constitution and the government will only facilitate the role of the election commission. Now, we just need to define this routine work,” said Ruhin Hossain Prince, the secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh. The left-wing parties are planning to form an eight-party political alliance to compete in the next parliamentary election, Prince said.
Professor Ataur Rahman, president of the Political Science Association, told Arab News: “So far in the race, the ruling party is in a better position. But in the end, we might experience a good election.”
“The ruling AL is implementing its development agenda, handling the Rohingya crisis successfully, taking the Islamic political parties into confidence, and addressing the demands of different professional groups.”
Rahman said that the AL may consider a “political concession” for its core opponent party in the form of a small Cabinet comprising all major parties representatives, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as a form of “election period government.”
“I think this is the possible best option for the ruling party and things are moving in that direction,” he said.
The government would prefer to hold an inclusive general election to form the next Parliament “otherwise the political situation may assume the worse shape,” Rahman said.


Democrats announce two impeachment charges against Trump

Updated 7 min 20 sec ago

Democrats announce two impeachment charges against Trump

  • The president is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain
  • "The evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested," said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff

WASHINGTON: Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment Tuesday against US President Donald Trump after weeks of arguing there is overwhelming evidence that the US leader abused his office and deserves to be removed.
If the charges -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- are approved by the full House of Representatives in a vote expected next week, it would put Trump in the historic position of being the third US leader ever impeached and placed on trial in the Senate.
"Our president holds the ultimate public trust," said House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler.
"When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security."
Nadler, in a solemn and deeply serious moment for the nation, was joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the US Capitol to lay out the charges facing Trump.
The president is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 US election.
His accusers say he conditioned vital military aid and a much-sought White House meeting on Kiev announcing it would investigate Democratic former vice president Joe Biden, who is the frontrunner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
He also pressed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to probe a debunked Kremlin conspiracy theory that it was Kiev, and not Moscow, that interfered in the 2016 US election.
The charges also focus on Trump's efforts to block Congress from fully investigating his actions -- which Democrats see as a violation of its constitutional right to conduct oversight of the executive branch.
"The evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested," said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw weeks of public hearings in which witnesses including Trump administration officials and US diplomats testified about the pressure on Ukraine.
"To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president's abuse of his high office," Schiff said, adding that Trump's "misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020."
Trump, who has long assailed the Democrats for pursuing impeachment, maintained his fighting posture early Tuesday, tweeting that the effort to oust him as "sheer Political Madness!"
Democrats on Monday laid out their case for ouster with a nearly 10-hour public hearing in which they declared Trump a "clear and present danger" to national security.
It is widely understood that Democrats were debating whether to unveil a third article of impeachment -- obstruction of justice -- against Trump, but concluded it would be better to keep the charges narrowly focused on Trump's Ukraine pressure effort.
Should Trump be impeached, as expected, he faces a weeks-long trial in January in the US Senate, which is controlled by members of his Republican Party.
Removal from office is unlikely, given that conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the 100-member chamber, and no Republicans have yet signaled they would side with Democrats against the president.