16 January 2007 World Socialist Web
In a desperate bid to end weeks of political turmoil, Bangladesh’s president Iajuddin Ahmed announced last Thursday that he was postponing national elections due on January 22, imposing a state of emergency and stepping aside as head of the interim caretaker government. The president had been the target of weeks of protests by opposition parties, which accused him of being a stooge of the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP). The main opposition party—the Awami League—had demanded that Iajuddin Ahmed step aside and the election be postponed to enable the drawing up of accurate electoral rolls. According to the opposition, the current list contains more than 10 million fake or deceased voters.
On Friday, the president swore in former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed as the new head of the interim government to hold power until after the election. At this stage, it is not clear when the poll will be held or whether the postponement is strictly constitutional. The BNP-led government stepped aside in October, at the end of its five-year term, paving the way for elections within 90 days as required by the country’s constitution. Following the announcement of a state of emergency, the security forces immediately clamped a curfew and strict media censorship on the country. Amid widespread criticism and open flouting by newspapers of the ban on political news, both measures were eased. The information ministry is, however, still urging the media not to write anything provocative.