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Bangladesh Prepares New Voter List


Bangladesh has compiled a new voters list that is expected to pave the way for fair elections scheduled to be held later this year. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, past elections in the country have been marred by allegations that ruling parties added millions of fake names to electoral rolls.

The Election Commission in Dhaka says officials assisted by army personnel, conducted door-to-door checks for nearly a year to record the identities, photographs and fingerprints of more than 80 million voters in the country.

Officials say nearly 13 million fake, fictitious, duplicate or underage voters in the earlier list have been eliminated.

Election Commission officials say the new list is the most accurate in Bangladesh's history.

Ataur Rahman, Professor of Political Science, at Dhaka University, agrees.

"This one is more or less flawless so far," he said. "People in general believe that this is going to be a more credible voter list than ever before."

The detailed exercise of compiling a new list began after the army-backed government pledged to reform corrupt institutions before holding elections, and virtually discarded the old rolls.

There are hopes the new voters list will enable more credible polls. Past elections in the country have been marred by allegations that results were manipulated by stuffing fake names in electoral rolls.

The interim government plans to hold elections in December. It came to power last year after elections were scrapped following violent protests by political activists who believed the polls would be rigged.

The new list is being seen as a big step forward in cleaning-up the election process. But analysts say the army-backed government faces many more challenges to return the country to democracy.

Rahman says the army-backed government will have to engage political parties more closely as they prepare for polls.

"Election is more than a voter list," he said. "The participation of the political parties, and also to show that the Election Commission is neutral all along, will be also more important. The trust of the political parties must be earned by the caretaker government as well as the Election Commission before a meaningful election can take place."

The biggest hurdle to a credible election so far is the refusal by some major parties to take part in the polls until their jailed leaders are released. They have been arrested on charges of corruption.

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