Elections of 5 city corporations to be held by June
Elections of five city corporations will be held in three phases by June this year. The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal at the EC office in Dhaka’s Agargaon. Election Commission secretary and other relevant officials were present at the meeting. Read more: EC is totally independent to conduct election: PM Hasina Election Commission Secretary Jahangir Alam said that Gazipur, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Khulna and Barishal city corporation elections will be held by June. The election schedule for these cities will be announced mid-April.
Brazilian protests intensify; Bolsonaro stays silent
The two men were sitting at a bar on Nov. 21, sipping drinks for relief from the scorching heat of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, when police officers barged in and arrested them for allegedly torching trucks and an ambulance with Molotov cocktails. One man attempted to flee and ditch his illegal firearm. Inside their pickup truck, officers found jugs of gasoline, knives, a pistol, slingshots and hundreds of stones — as well as 9,999 reais (nearly $1,900) in cash. A federal judge ordered their preventive detention, noting that their apparent motive for the violence was “dissatisfaction with the result of the last presidential election and pursuit of its undemocratic reversal,” according to court documents reviewed by The Associated Press. For more than three weeks, supporters of incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro who refuse to accept his narrow defeat in October’s election have blocked roads and camped outside military buildings in Mato Grosso, Brazil’s soy-producing powerhouse. They also have protested in other states across the nation, while pleading for intervention from the armed forces or marching orders from their commander in chief. Since his election loss, Bolsonaro has only addressed the nation twice, to say that the protests are legitimate and encourage them to continue, as long as they don’t prevent people from coming and going. Bolsonaro has not disavowed the recent emergence of violence, either. He has, however, challenged the election results — which the electoral authority’s president said appears aimed at stoking protests. While most demonstrations are peaceful, tactics deployed by hardcore participants have begun concerning authorities. José Antônio Borges, chief state prosecutor in Mato Grosso, compared their actions to that of guerrilla fighters, militia groups and domestic terrorists. Mato Grosso is one of the nation’s hotbeds for unrest. The chief targets, Borges says, are soy trucks from Grupo Maggi, owned by a tycoon who declared support for President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. There are also indications that people and companies from the state may be fueling protests elsewhere. Road blockades and acts of violence have been reported in the states of Rondonia, Para, Parana and Santa Catarina. In the latter, federal highway police said protesters blocking highways have employed “terrorist” methods including homemade bombs, fireworks, nails, stones and barricades made of burnt tires. Read more: Security agencies will act, if vandalism is there in the name of protests, says Home Minister Police also noted that roadblocks over the weekend were different from those carried out immediately after the Oct. 30 runoff election, when truckers blocked more than 1,000 roads and highways across the country, with only isolated incidents. Now, most acts of resistance are taking place at night, carried out by “extremely violent and coordinated hooded men,” acting in different regions of the state at the same time, federal highway police said. “The situation is getting very critical” in Mato Grosso state, chief state prosecutor Borges told the AP. Among other examples, he noted that protesters in Sinop, the state’s second most populous city, this week ordered shops and businesses to close in support of the movement. “Whoever doesn’t shut down suffers reprisals,” he said. Since the vote, Bolsonaro has dropped out of public view and his daily agenda has been largely vacant, prompting speculation as to whether he is stewing or scheming. Government transition duties have been led by his chief of staff, while Vice President Hamilton Mourão has stepped in to preside over official ceremonies. In an interview with newspaper O Globo, Mourão chalked up Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on his legs that he said prevents the president from wearing pants. But even Bolsonaro’s social media accounts have gone silent – aside from generic posts about his administration, apparently from his communications team. And the live social media broadcasts that, with rare exception, he conducted every Thursday night during his administration have ceased. The silence marks an abrupt about-face for the bombastic Brazilian leader whose legions of supporters hang on his every word. Still, demonstrators, who have camped outside military barracks across Brazil for weeks, are certain they have his tacit support. “We understand perfectly well why he doesn’t want to talk: They (the news media) distort his words,” said a 49-year-old woman who identified herself only as Joelma during a protest outside the monumental regional military command center in Rio de Janeiro. She declined to give her full name, claiming the protest had been infiltrated by informants. Joelma and others say they are outraged with Bolsonaro’s loss and claim the election was rigged, echoing the incumbent president’s claims — made without evidence — that the electronic voting system is prone to fraud. Scenes of large barbecues with free food and portable bathrooms at several protests, plus reports of free bus rides bringing demonstrators to the capital, Brasilia, have prompted investigations into the people and companies financing and organizing the gatherings and roadblocks. The Supreme Court has frozen at least 43 bank accounts for suspicion of involvement, news site G1 reported, saying most are from Mato Grosso. Borges cited the involvement of agribusiness players in the protests, many of whom support Bolsonaro’s push for development of the Amazon rainforest and his authorization of previously banned pesticides. By contrast, President-elect da Silva has pledged to rebuild environmental protections. Most recently, protesters have been emboldened by the president’s decision to officially contest the election results. Read more: Brazil election body rejects Bolsonaro's push to void votes On Tuesday, Bolsonaro and his party filed a request for the electoral authority to annul votes cast on nearly 60% of electronic voting machines, citing a software bug in older models. Independent experts have said the bug, while newly discovered, doesn’t affect the results and the electoral authority’s president, Alexandre de Moraes swiftly rejected the “bizarre and illicit” request. De Moraes, who is also a Supreme Court justice, called it “an attack on the Democratic Rule of Law ... with the purpose of encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements.” On Nov. 21, Prosecutor-general Augusto Aras summoned federal prosecutors from states where roadblocks and violence have become more intense for a crisis meeting. Aras, who is widely seen as a Bolsonaro stalwart, said he received intelligence reports from local prosecutors and instructed Mato Grosso’s governor to request federal backup to clear its blocked highways. Ultimately that wasn’t necessary, as local law enforcement managed to break up demonstrations and, by Monday night, roads in Mato Grosso and elsewhere were all liberated, according to the federal highway police. It was unclear how long this would last, however, amid Bolsonaro’s continued silence, said Guilherme Casarões, a political science professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation university. “With his silence, he keeps people in the streets,” Casarões said. “This is the great advantage he has today: a very mobilized, and very radical base.”
US Official: Free, fair elections “must include a level playing field for all”
Free and fair elections in Bangladesh “must include a level playing field” for all participants, including political parties, said the US Embassy in Dhaka on Monday on conclusion of US Deputy Assistant Secretary Afreen Akhter’s two-day visit here. The US official and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas met with representatives of Bangladesh's three major political parties – Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Party. Before leaving Dhaka, Afreen Akhter had a breakfast meeting with Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen at a city hotel on Monday. “Absolutely, there is trust and respect for each other,” she said referring to her meeting with political leaders. Read more: Working closely with civil society for fair elections: Visiting US official She highlighted the cooperation between Bangladesh and the US in a whole range of areas including health, climate and economic cooperation. Talking to reporters, Foreign Secretary Masud said they talked about a number of issues and it was “not an election-centric” discussion. "Our USAID mission is working very closely with the civil society actors across Bangladesh to support their efforts to provide free and fair elections in Bangladesh,” Akhter told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday. Read more: Govt to support Election Commission in holding fair election: Law Minister During her meeting with Secretary (Maritime Affairs Unit) Rear Admiral (Retd) Md Khurshed Alam, the US official discussed maritime security and how they can cooperate with Bangladesh and other forms of maritime cooperation in the region during the meeting. The Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) for Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives, as well the Office of Security and Transnational Affairs most recently served as a Senior Adviser to SCA Assistant Secretary Don Lu. Previously, Akhter was the National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser to U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen.
Diplomats are welcome to advise on polls, but no meddling with internal matters: Info Minister
Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud has said that foreign diplomats are free to give advice on elections as long as they don’t interfere in the country’s internal affairs and cross diplomatic etiquettes. The minister said this while exchanging views with journalists after receiving the annual report of Bangladesh Press Council at the ministry’s meeting room on Monday. “The foreign diplomats can talk to any political party of the country about participatory elections. They can even talk to any particular political party in private on avoiding conflicts during the time of elections. The government has no problem with that as we also want transparent and participatory elections,” Hasan said. About Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) recent activities, the minister said it’s the BNP men who are attacking their own fellows to create an anarchic situation. “In 2018, BNP secured five seats in the parliament as an outcome of their dialogue (with the government). This time, they’ll be rejected by the people if they don’t shun the path of violence,” said Hasan. Replying to a question, the minister added that Father of The Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had established the Press Council to remove misunderstanding between the public and the media. Read: Transit a big achievement of PM’s India visit: Info Minister “Currently, the only role that the Press Council plays is of reprimanding. The government is trying to formulate new laws to increase the power of this body,” Hasan added. Hasan, also the Joint General Secretary of the ruling Awami League, reaffirmed his view media in Bangladesh enjoys more freedom than in many developed countries of the world. “The government is creating a database of the journalists. The Press Council has prepared a draft policy in this regard, which will be approved soon,” said Hasan. During the meeting, Press Council Chairman Nizamul Haque presented their report for 2022. Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, editor of The Daily Observer and Saiful Alam, dditor of the daily Jugantor, among others, were present at the meeting.
Dipu Moni for participation of all parties in elections
Minister for Education Dr Dipu Moni said on Wednesday that they want the participation of all political parties in the upcoming zilla parishad and national elections. She also said there is no scope for bringing in any political party if they have the intention to make the elections questionable. Minister Moni, also joint general secretary of the ruling Awami League (AL), said this while responding to queries from journalists at a function at Chandpur Circuit House in the evening. Asked about the use of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in the elections, she said the use of the EVMs depends on the election commission (EC), and the AL will assist them in holding a fair election. “I don’t know whether all parties will reach a point regarding the use of the EVM, however, we will have to march forward for the sake of development with technology unless all are agreed,” Dipu said. Read: AL wants competitive elections: Obaidul Quader The minister reiterated that the national elections will be held on time and won’t wait for anyone. Some political parties oppose opposition without reasonable grounds. Expressing her optimism of participation of all competent parties in the upcoming election, she said it is their political right if they don’t compete in the election despite having all arrangements. Chandpur Deputy Commissioner Kamrul Hasan, Superintendent of Police Milon Mahmud and the party’s leaders and activists were present there.
CEC now says it was a joke
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal has said that his comment about combating words with rifles during elections was a joke. The CEC gave this explanation in a dialogue with the Bangladesh Revolutionary Workers Party at the election building on Monday . “You must have a concerted effort. If someone stands with a sword, you should stand with a rifle or another sword. If you run, what do I do? We will help. We’ll have command over the police and the government,” the CEC had said at the meeting with a team of Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM) yesterday. Also read: EC in the soup with the election as major parties differ, says CEC Habibul Awal "A Chief Election Commissioner does not have enough commonsense to comment like this? If that is true then I am arrested under Arms Act, which I did under Arms Act. The police will come and take me away. There is one thing - whether it is said from the heart or a joke, these must be understood," he said. CEC said that the main news in the paper about this, is to bring down a man. After that, there is no more morale to work. A delegation of 10 members led by the General Secretary of Bangladesh Revolutionary Workers Party participated in the EC dialogue. Among others, four Election Commissioners and senior EC officials were present. Also read: CEC’s statement on election-time violence suicidal: TIB
AL wants competitive elections: Obaidul Quader
General Secretary of Awami League Obaidul Quader said Awami League wants competitive elections with the participation of all political parties. "Awami League does not want uncontested elections, it wants competitive elections with the participation of all political parties," he said. Minister of Road Transport and Bridges Obaidul Quader said this to the journalists after an exchange meeting with the concerned officers and employees at the head office of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation - BRTC this morning. He said Awami League never wants to score goals in an empty field. The Election Commission is sitting in dialogue with the registered political parties from today, the dialogue of the Election Commission will continue till July 31 while the delegation of 10 members of Awami League will participate in the dialogue with the commission, said the general secretary of Awami League. He also said that it is the duty of patriotism of all political parties to participate in this dialogue called by the Election Commission. Those who want to change the government through elections should participate in the elections. Expecting that every registered political party will participate in the dialogue of the Election Commission, Obaidul Quader said that we want to see this election as a competitive one. That's why a free, impartial and credible election will be held with the participation of all registered parties. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already made a lot of improvements in the electoral system to further improve the electoral system. Read: EC begins talks with political parties Obaidul Quader hoped that the current system will also be conducive to a fair, free and impartial election. Saying 'The election will be held under the current government' - Obaidul Quader said If the election commission is neutral, then the election will be free and neutral, there will be no involvement of the government here. The government will only support the commission. He said that no agency or office of the government related to the election will run under the direction of the government during the election. It will run under the Election Commission. Awami League General Secretary hoped that the registered political parties would participate and play their responsible role in the political dialogue called by the Election Commission. Earlier, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader attended an exchange meeting with BRTC officials. Meanwhile, Road Transport and Highways Department Secretary ABM Amin Ullah Noori and BRTC Chairman Md Tajul Islam and other officials were present. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said that BRTC has returned to the profit trend - this trend should be continued.
US won't take sides in election: Amb. Haas
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas has said the US will not take any side in the upcoming elections in Bangladesh and reiterated US commitment across the world to help countries strengthen democracy. “Let me be clear: the United States will not pick a side in the upcoming elections. We simply hope for a democratic process that allows the Bangladeshi people to freely decide who will run their country,” he said while addressing a seminar on Sunday. Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organized the seminar on “Bangladesh and the United States Relations: Moving towards Enhanced Cooperation and Partnership” at the BIISS auditorium. Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen spoke as the chief guest at the event in which the US envoy highlighted three areas ripe for growth in the bilateral relationship - security, human rights and democracy, and economic ties. Ambassador Haas said the two countries can work together to promote democracy and protect human rights and acknowledged that the United States is not perfect. “As the relationship grows, the conversation broadens.” "We have embarked on our own democratic renewal. This journey includes tackling our own issues with police accountability and ensuring all Americans can cast their ballots on election day,” he said, adding that they are inviting countries around the world to make similar commitments to strengthen their democracies. Ambassador Haas said he is pleased Foreign Minister Momen stated that Bangladesh will welcome international observers during the next election. Also read:World Immunization Week: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador calls for greater investment He also welcomed the Law Minister’s commitment to reform the Digital Security Act to prevent further abuses. “Holding an election consistent with international standards is not just about the day votes are actually cast,” Ambassador Haas mentioned. In effect, he said, the elections have already started. “Truly democratic elections require the space for civic discourse to take place, an environment where journalists can investigate without fear, and the ability for civil society organizations to advocate broadly.”
New CEC urges all political parties to take part in elections to strengthen democracy
Newly-appointed Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal on Monday urged all political parties to participate in elections to help strengthen the country’s democracy. “I would like to urge all in an unequivocal voice to restore our democratic process and form a dialectical (vibrant) parliament by participating in the elections, “the CEC told a press conference at the Nirbachan Bhaban on the very first day in office. “We’ll try to present good governance and parliament to the nation through a fair election. We’ll not have any stinginess from this perspective,” he said. Habibul said “We would like to make all election-oriented. There will be no deficit in our efforts.” Also read: New CEC, four ECs take oath When his attention was drawn to BNP’s announcement that it would not join the next national election, he said, “Wouldn’t we invite them for having talks and tea even after BNP made the announcement?” He urged the political parties not to leave the electoral field to help the commission arrange for the polls in the fair manner. “The election, particularly the parliamentary one, is a massive act. So, political parties also have a role to make the elections fair,” he said. In reply to another question about restoration of trust among political parties, the new CEC said the EC will assist the political leadership as a whole. “If the minimum compromise is not there among the political leadership, I can’t be their ‘Murubbi’ (mediators).” “They (political parties) are much more knowledgeable and experienced than us. We’ll appeal to them to reach a compromise,” he said. Also read: President appoints former defence secretary Kazi Habibul Awal as the new CEC Habibul said all members of his commission are committed to performing their electoral responsibilities with utmost sincerity, integrity and honesty. “My colleagues and I, in a unified voice, said that we will try to conduct the next election following our constitutional pledge and oath,” he said. In reply to a question, he said, “We’ll try our best so the voters can apply their voting right, which is a big challenge. We will want to bring the voters in confidence,” said the new CEC. “We hope, pray and expect from the core of our heart that all political parties will try to strengthen our republic and democracy by participating in the elections, '' he said. Four newly-appointed election commissioners Begum Rashida Sultana, Ahsan Habib Khan, M Alamgir and Anisur Rahman and EC Secretary Md Humayun Kabir Khandaker were present at the event. The CEC and four election commissioners took oath of office on Sunday afternoon and joined the office on Monday morning. Earlier on Saturday last, President Md Abdul Hamid appointed former Senior Secretary Kazi Habibul Awal as the CEC as well as four others --District and Session Judge (Retd) Begum Rashida Sultana, Brig Gen (Retd) Ahsan Habib Khan, Senior Secretary (Retd) M Alamgir and Senior Secretary (Retd) Anisur Rahman as the election commissioners.
EC shouldn't be formed with sycophants of any party: EC
Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader on Tuesday said the next Election Commission (EC) should not be formed with sycophants of a particular party. "It'll be disappointing if the Election Commission is formed with flatterers of a party," he said. GM Quader, also the deputy opposition leader in parliament, said no party should have the mentality of making all gains in formation of the EC. Read:Jatiya Party wants strong, competent EC: GM Quader He came up with the remarks while speaking at a views exchange meeting with the thana-level leaders of Jatiya Party's Dhaka north city unit at the Party Chairman's Banani office. The Jatiya Party chief said their party has been helping the government from the beginning to form the EC. "Holding fair elections won't be possible if the Election Commission is not given the full power. We wanted the Election Commission law with the full authority of the Commission. But, the law that was formulated is the old wine in a new bottle," he said. GM Quader said people want to see free, fair, neutral, and acceptable elections in the country. He said the recent Union Parishad (UP) elections have proved that even the workers of Awami League do not want to vote for 'boat' anymore. "Awami League has lost popularity vastly by staying in state power for a long time. "Corruption, nepotism, and discrimination have crossed the limit of tolerance of people of the country," the Jatiya Party chairman observed. He regretted that Bangladesh's name is now there beside Myanmar and North Korea due to the US sanctions on some former and current Rab officials. Read: Water tariff hike to be an anti-people decision: GM Quader Despite having huge public support, GM Quadewr said BNP has now become a decayed party. He said both Awami League and BNP have destroyed democracy in the name of parliamentary democracy since 1991. The Jatiya Party chairman also said people have understood that they won't emancipated by Awami League and BNP. "The people of the country want to see Jatiya Party in power.” He asked the leaders and workers of the party to make it stronger before the next general election.