News

Elections in Bangladesh to Take Place December 29

Voters in Bangladesh go to the polls on December 29. The election is intended to restore democracy to the South Asian nation of 150 million people, who are predominately Muslim. The long-delayed election comes after a nearly two-year period of emergency rule by an army-backed caretaker government.

The two top contenders to lead Bangladesh are familiar faces and bitter rivals.

Sheikh Hasina, of the Awami League, and Khaleda Zia, of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, both served as prime minister. They rotated in and out of power during a tumultuous 15-year period with the party in opposition accused of violence and intimidation against the other.

Two years ago, during a period of bloodshed on the streets, political paralysis and widespread disgust with endemic corruption the military felt compelled to intervene.  

The army installed an interim government under emergency law. The caretakers conducted a widespread sweep to try to rid Bangladesh of graft politics.

Among those caught in the dragnet were the two former prime ministers, known as the "Battling Begums." Their release from jail and freedom to campaign was a non-negotiable condition of their respective parties to contest the election.

Without the two women the election would not have been deemed credible by very many voters here.

Zia claims a late surge by the BNP is putting her on the path to victory. But others contend the Awami League and Hasina are still ahead.

"Only you people can snatch another victory on 29th December by voting for us," she said. "This election is very important for you and for the people of Bangladesh, because this election is a revolution against the terrorists, the corrupt and the looters. I believe people will give their verdicts based on that."

Hasina has released a manifesto outlining sweeping development for Bangladesh - one of the world's poorest countries.

Zia contends her party, the BNP, is the better choice to pull Bangladesh out of deep poverty and its heavy dependence on foreign aid.

"These sheathes [symbol of BNP] symbolize strength and development, so whenever people voted for this symbol, there were much development in the country," she said. "So I handover this symbol to our candidates."

On a more alarming note, Zia alleges she is a target for assassination before election day.

Hasina, who has seen a half dozen attempts on her life over the years, is accusing a trailing Zia of a dramatic ploy to scuttle the election at the last minute.

U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty has appeared recently twice alongside Sheik Hasina of the Awami League. But he tells VOA News he is not playing favorites and desires to meet again with BNP leader Zia before the election.

"We have no preferred candidate," he said.  "I've reached out to both of the former prime ministers. I've assured them that the United States has important interests in Bangladesh, wants to see a return to democracy and will work well with whatever government comes to power."

The U.S. ambassador is calling for the election winner to focus on three priorities - restoring full democracy, development and denying opportunities for terrorism to flourish.

"Any successful government in Bangladesh has to address all three," he said. "If the democracy does not function well, you will see ungoverned space, you will see much slower economic development than you would otherwise. If development doesn't occur you will have a lot more poor people, you will have a lot more opportunities for bad guys to do bad things."

The ambassador says he is convinced Bangladesh's military is sincere about removing itself from politics and commends the army for keeping in step with its own timetable for the transition back to an elected civilian government.
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs