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UN asks if polls can be deferred

Publication Date : 08-12-2013


Oscar Fernández Taranco, UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, yesterday sought to know from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina if there was any scope for deferring the polls date, to which Hasina said the Election Commission could decide that.

Taranco also met opposition leader Khaleda Zia, but the outcome of the meeting was not disclosed by either side.

He held a one-to-one meeting with Hasina at Gono Bhaban at 4:00pm and with Khaleda at her Gulshan residence at 7:00pm.

PM’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi told reporters after the meeting with Hasina that the UN official inquired if the election date could be shifted. The PM told Taranco that only the EC had that jurisdiction.

Hasina, however, assured Taranco that she would continue her efforts to bring all political parties to the polls, reports BSS, quoting Rizvi.

The prime minister assured the UN official that the EC could take any decision to create a level playing field for all political parties. The government has no authority to interfere in the activities of the commission, according to BSS.

“Taranco welcomed the government decision to uphold the constitution, saying there is no need for discussion on caretaker government at this stage,” BSS quoted Rizvi as saying.

The state-run news agency added that Gowher Rizvi told reporters Taranco conveyed to the PM a special message from the UN secretary general.

“The message is that the UN wants to see Bangladesh in its role to continue the process of democratic institutionalisation and development.

“So the UN wants an inclusive, free and fair election with a consensus among the political parties.”

Meanwhile, opposition party BNP Vice-president Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury told journalists of Taranco’s meeting with Khaleda: “I cannot comment on the progress or no-progress of the talks at this stage.”

Taranco arrived in Dhaka on Friday night to try to break the political impasse centring on the election scheduled for January 5.

Hasina and Khaleda apart, he held talks with senior Awami League leaders, the foreign minister, the foreign secretary and six influential foreign diplomats based in Dhaka yesterday, the first day of his four-day visit.

During his meetings he clearly conveyed to the nation’s top political players that the election must be “inclusive, free, fair and non-violent if the results are to be credible and acceptable” to the people.

 “Time is very limited but the door (for talks) should be open,” a highly placed source quoted Taranco as saying at a meeting.

During his meetings with the political leaders, Taranco called upon them to work together for a constructive dialogue to find a way forward and create an environment for an inclusive and peaceful election.

The UN official regretted the violence during hartal and blockade that has killed and injured many, a meeting source said.

He said the UN secretary general was seriously concerned about the latest wave of deadly violence ahead of the election and called upon all to respect the rule of law, exercise restraint and express views peacefully, the sources added.

He also made it clear that a solution would not come from the international community. It had to come from home.

Taranco noted that the UN always respected the constitutional framework and wanted the continuation of the democratic process so that Bangladesh’s achievements and its social indicators remained unhampered.

The UN chief is very keen about Bangladesh and always inquires about the country because his first diplomatic posting was in Bangladesh, he mentioned.

He added that the UN was ready to provide electoral assistance and would jointly coordinate the international observers during the election, sources said.



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