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European Parliament calls for calm ahead of polls in B'Desh

ANI  |  Brussels/Dhaka 

Experts gathered in European to discuss political uncertainty in and called for peace and tranquillity, as the feud between the leading parties could delay or even derail elections due by January in a country with a history of ferocious political violence and military intervention.

Recently, European passed a resolution on Bangladesh, urging the parties to refrain from violence and conduct elections in a peaceful manner.

will hold its national on January 5, the Commission said on November 25, enraging the opposition, which took to the streets in protest and called for a blockade of roads, waterways and across the country.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formed a poll-time administration this month involving members of the ruling party and opposition to oversee the ballots, as is the usual pattern in to try to ensure a free and fair vote.

However, the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) says the interim cabinet is not impartial and has rejected any attempt to hold an until it is satisfied a neutral interim administration is in place without Hasina.

Founder and Executive Director, South Asia Democratic Forum, Paulo Casaca on Thursday emphasised on an environment where people could freely exercise their franchise.

"Well, it's fundamental that there will be a climate of peace and tranquillity that people are allowed to freely express their vote without such pressures and such organised terror because that's what it is that we are witnessing now in Bangladesh that's what our Canadian mission to Bangladesh has been reporting to us," he said.

Bangladesh has been hit in recent months by a wave of violent protests over war crimes convictions, presenting the government with a security and credibility challenge ahead of polls early next year.

The in 2011 scrapped a "caretaker government" system.

Considering the political uncertainty, Casaca pinned hopes on strengthening of trade unions and economic development in Bangladesh.

"Well, I would like very much to see a country where the issue of women and minorities will be settled in a positive way where trade unions would be strengthened, where economic development and specially all the goals of the millennium would be going as rapidly as possible in the right direction," he also said.

Blood-letting erupted across the country at the end of February when the war crimes tribunal condemned a top leader of the Jamaat party to hang.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947, but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, who were backed by India, and Pakistani forces that cost three million lives.

Commenting over the unrest in the country, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium, Ismat Jahan said that democracy should sustain.

"I would not call it danger because you see danger is something very negative. But I think that it would be some kind of apprehensions that's going on and speculations which might lead to some disabilities, some unrest which is best avoided because for a country like Bangladesh, which has already tested the democracy for sometimes now, it is very important to maintain and sustain democracy," she said.

The dispute over the conduct of the election, nothing new in Bangladesh where power has flipped between the dynastic parties since the 1990s, has led to the deaths of some 25 people in protests and the arrest of some BNP leaders over the past weeks.

It comes against the backdrop of protests over conditions in factories supporting Bangladesh's $22 billion garment export industry, the economic lifeblood of the poor country of 160 million that has been rocked by a string of deadly accidents.

Former Canadian Minister David Kilgour called for end of the political deadlock with an aim to stabilise the economy.

"Garment industry is worth about 21 billion dollars. How many jobs does that create, how many families does that give a future to, how many better lives does that create? We don't want to see people take office in Dhaka that are simply going to say economy be dammed, we don't want women working as you I am sure you know 80 percent of the people working in the garment industry are women. I think 6 million people work in the industry. So, maintaining the economy is extremely important," he said.

If the impasse is not broken, the BNP may boycott the poll, unleashing fresh unrest - or there could be a repeat of 2007, when the army stepped in and installed a provisional government to crack down on the political thuggery and violence.

The two parties differ little in terms of policy, with voters frequently just booting out the incumbent in the hope that change will bring improvement.

First Published: Fri, November 29 2013. 17:05 IST