Not in power longer than necessary: top Bangladesh official
Mar 24, 2007 - 3:46:47 PM

Dhaka, March 24 - Bangladesh's Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed has said his caretaker government does not intend to stay in power 'a day longer than necessary', but added that it would complete electoral reforms before conducting polls.

He has denied that the establishment of his government was 'a military coup by stealth', a charge levelled by some critics.

He has strongly defended the current drive against crime and corruption that has led to an estimated 45,000 people behind bar and prosecution of many high profile politicians.

In an interview with Time magazine, he said the Election Commission - has to decide when elections will be held.

'Before that, there is a need to carry out fundamental reforms of the political party systems, including registration and accountability to their own constitutions, and accountability to the people in terms of what they do with the money they collect.'

His comments come in reaction to the clamour from major political parties seeking an early poll timetable.

The ninth general election, scheduled for Jan 22, was called off after several weeks of turmoil that left at least 30 killed. Under a nationwide state of emergency imposed Jan 11, civil rights were curbed and there was a blanket ban on political activity.

Electoral reforms and a drive against crime, corruption and militancy are high on the agenda of the government. Ahmed said the Election Commission is also thinking about technical issues like voter ID cards and 'transparent ballot boxes to ensure that fraud is minimised. All these reforms will take time', the United News of Bangladesh - news agency quoted him as saying.

'We are committed to holding elections in the shortest possible period but there is a wide acceptance in the country that the time that it takes to carry out these fundamental reforms should really be allowed, and then you hold elections,' he said. But he hastened to add, 'We do not intend to stay in power a day longer than necessary.'

Responding to a question that those reforms could take years, the chief adviser retorted, 'Years? Definitely no. - some of those - conditions - be removed once and for all, not just for the next election but for elections thereafter as well.'

Asked about some people's notion that the establishment of his government as a military coup by stealth, Fakhruddin said, 'Only a lack of understanding and appreciation of the situation in Bangladesh would provoke that kind of a comment.

'...The conditions under which we came to power are constitutional, and the military in Bangladesh really respects the rule of law and the constitution,' he said, adding, 'Certainly, the military is backing my government. It's called upon to aid the civil administration in times of emergency -- natural or man-made. That's not unknown in many - countries.'

The US Friday said there ought to be a timeline for elections in Bangladesh to satisfy its people although America is not pushing for a specific time for the polls.

'The goal of this government has to be to develop a programme to get back to elections. And so what we've looked for is not so much a particular date,' a senior US State Department official said at a briefing, according to a Washington report.

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