Bangladesh's main opposition has rejected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's all-party interim government proposal and tabled a new formula for administration to oversee elections. "She has blocked the road to credible elections and created the way to deprive the voting rights of the people," Xinhua quoted Khaleda Zia, chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), as saying in a press briefing in response to Hasina's proposal.
In an apparent move to de-escalate tension between ruling and opposition parties, Hasina Friday proposed an all-party government be set up to hold general elections in the South Asian country. Hasina's proposal came as a tense political standoff over a non-party caretaker government system culminated with both the ruling and opposition parties calling rallies Oct 25 in Dhaka to stage a showdown.
Five days ahead of BNP's anti-government rally, Bangladesh police Oct 19 imposed an indefinite ban on meetings, processions and rallies in capital Dhaka from Sunday morning, a step the opposition described as an attempt to mute dissenting voices. "Unfortunately, whatever Hasina has said in her address to the nation is not aligned to the hopes and aspirations of the people. Because it will not ensure a credible, free, fair national election participated by all parties," Zia said. "She (PM) has not clarified who will head the all-party election time government proposed by her," Zia, also two-time former prime minister, added.
Zia said that the only advice she has sought from the opposition parties is a date for the elections. The nation is frustrated by Hasina's statement, she added. "I still feel that the matter can be solved through discussions. The sooner this is held the better," Zia stated. “That is why, in line with the hopes and expressions of the people, I would now like to place on behalf of the BNP and 18-party alliance a specific proposal for consideration by the prime minister." The former prime minister said that in 1996 and 2001, under the non-party and neutral caretaker governments, two credible elections were held in all parties participated. “The advisers of those caretaker governments were praised by all for their neutrality. The Awami League (AL) won one of those elections while BNP the other," she said.
"I am proposing that from those 20 advisers the ruling party can propose five names and the opposition party another five. They will be the advisers in the forthcoming election time government," Zia stated. She proposed that, on the basis of a consensus between the government and the opposition parties, a respected citizen of the country can be chosen to be chief adviser of the interim government. Hasina's ruling AL rejected Zia's new formula for interim administration. In his initial reaction, AL spokesman Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif told reporters that "her (Zia's) proposal is not acceptable". But he said there is still opportunity for discussion.
Since June 2011, when Bangladesh Parliament abolished the non-party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance has been pushing for the reinstatement of the provision. The Supreme Court, in its order, mentioned "although the non-party caretaker government is illegal, the next 10th and 11th parliamentary elections may be held under the system to avoid chaos".
The caretaker system in which Bangladesh is ruled by a selected government for an interim period (90 days) during transition from one government to another after the completion of the former, was initially introduced in 1990 after military strongman HM Ershad was deposed. The caretaker government system was institutionalized through the 13th amendment to the constitution in 1996 by then BNP government under pressure from main opposition AL. The caretaker government, whose main objective is to create an environment in which an election can be held in a free and fair manner without any political influence of the outgoing government, has held elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008, which were recognised as free and fair by local and international observers.