Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, head of the principal opposition party, the Awami League, has announced that she and her alliance partners will boycott the 22 January general elections:
We want to take part in the polls which will reflect the peoples will, but that is not possible keeping President Iajuddin Ahmed as the chief adviser of the interim caretaker government.
As has been the case since the caretaker government came to power in preparation for the elections back in October, the issue for the Awami League is the absence of neutrality of election administration, including an allegedly inaccurate voter-registration list. I will repeat now a question I asked then: Are there any other countries besides Bangladesh where the incumbent government is formally replaced by a caretaker in the period immediately before a general election?
Obviously, Bangladesh could use an independent electoral commission. Its presidency is selected by the parliamentary majority and is thus not credible as a neutral caretaker.
The alliance partners to the Awami League include the Jatiya Party (JP) of former military ruler HM Ershad and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of ex-president Badruddoza Chowdhury. Ershad had made his own boycott announcement on Tuesday. Ershad’s bloc (one of several variants of the JP to contest the 2001 elections under its own banner) and the Awami League combined for 47.3% of the votes in 2001, but only 77 seats, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party won 198 of the 300 seats on only 40.1% of the votes. The LDP is not shown in Adam Carr’s summary of the 2001 election. The Awami League formed a government with the Jatiya Party after the 1996 elections and its leader is the daughter of independent Bangladesh’s first prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated by junior military officers in 1975.