Bangladesh EC bars war criminals from contesting in polls

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Dhaka, Feb 21 (UNI) The Election Commission (EC) of Bangladesh seeks to bar war criminals permanently from contesting parliamentary elections.

In response to demands from most political parties, the EC has incorporated provisions in this regard in the proposed electoral laws for parliament. Earlier, it had proposed inclusion of similar provisions in the existing electoral laws for city corporations and municipalities, barring war criminals from elections to those local government bodies.

Once the proposals are finalised following the second round of electoral reform talks with political parties scheduled to begin on February 24, the EC will send those to the government of Bangladesh to make them laws, The Daily Star reported.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of Bangladesh ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday said, ''We also want to prevent war criminals from contesting elections. But we can't do so unless they are convicted by courts.'' But the caretaker government is yet to take any initiative for trial of war criminals despite growing demands for this. The proposed laws would have no effectiveness if they are not tried, sources pointed out.

According to the proposal, a person cannot contest parliamentary elections if he or she is convicted by a national or international court for war crimes.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed had said it would be unwarranted if war criminals contest the elections.

The EC has now prepared a comprehensive report incorporating the political parties' views on its proposed reforms in electoral laws and sent the report to 15 political parties on Tuesday with the invitations for second round of talks.

Meanwhile, the cimmission has not yet given any decision on the demands for not registering Jamaat-e-Islami and other anti-liberation forces as parliamentary political party. The issue would also be discussed at the second round of talks.

Sources noted that the EC was facing difficulties finalising its proposals since it could not yet hold first round of talks with BNP due to its leadership disputes. And it has excluded the party from the second round of talks.

''The tasks will not be completed until holding talks with BNP. We have to see the ground reality. It is not possible for us to finalise the proposals without seeking opinion of a major political party,'' the CEC said.

''We are waiting for court's decision regarding talks with BNP,'' he added. On election expenditures, the revised proposals say expenditure of a parliamentary polls candidate would be fixed considering the number of voters of the constituency.

''The expenditure of a candidate will not exceed Tk 15 lakh in a single constituency. Expenditure of the political party concerned will be added with the candidate's election expenses,'' the EC proposal said.

It has also proposed that none would be allowed to bring out procession or hold rally during filling of nominations. Besides, it has decided that polls would be held on one day, rejecting proposals for some political parties to hold polls on more than one day.

No candidate would be allowed to contest from more than three constituencies at a time, it added.

The commission has retained its proposals for imposing restriction on retired military or civil servants, loan and utility bill defaulters, NGO officials and independent candidates regarding participation in national polls.

A retired civil or military bureaucrat would not be allowed to contest parliamentary election within three years after retirement.

Similar provision has been suggested for officials of NGOs run on foreign grants, the proposals said.

UNI XC RJ KN1725

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