Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today told a UN envoy that Bangladesh's polls could be deferred to accommodate the demands of the main opposition BNP, which has decided not to participate in the January 5 general election.
Hasina's media adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said the premier told UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco that the independent Election Commission could defer the poll schedule to accommodate the BNP.
The UN envoy, on a mission to end political turmoil triggered by a standoff between the Awami League and the BNP over the general election, sought revision of the poll schedule for negotiations. "But whatever the Election Commission does, they must do it within the constitutional framework," Hasina was quoted as saying by Chowdhury.
When Fernandez-Taranco referred to opposition concerns about "a level playing field", the premier told him the Election Commission was constituted in consultation with the BNP and had conducted several hundred local government body polls that were "never questioned by the opposition".
The envoy told Hasina that the UN wants continued democratic process through peaceful polls joined by all major parties. "In response, the Prime Minister said institutionalisation of democracy is the aim of her government through which transition of power could take place through constitutional means, shunning confrontation and violence," Chowdhury told PTI.
Fernandez-Taranco arrived here last night with UN chief Ban Ki-moon's message for an urgent dialogue between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to reach an acceptable formula for holding an "inclusive, non-violent and credible election".
Officials said the envoy would also hold talks with Hasina's arch-rival Khaleda Zia, head of the BNP.
The UN envoy's mission began as the BNP and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e-Islami launched a fresh 72-hour nationwide blockade to push for the postponement of polls.
The Awami League formed a multi-party interim government to oversee the polls but the BNP refused to join it and demanded the setting up a non-party caretaker set-up.
Over 50 people have died in clashes since October when the BNP led 18-party opposition alliance launched a series of protests demanding Hasina's resignation and the postponement of the elections.