Hasina Warns About Threat to Democracy in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has warned that the democratic process in the country might be stalled for the next 10 years if an "unconstitutional government" comes to power due to the current political crisis over the electoral system.

"The country will not see any election in the coming ten years if any unconstitutional body comes to power this time," Hasina said while speaking at an Iftar gathering yesterday.

In an apparent reference to past interventions by the army, she said, "If such a government comes (into power), democracy will be no longer in the country."

Her comments come in the light of widespread concern about the fate of next general elections scheduled for early 2014 due to sharp differences between the main ruling and opposition party over restoration of the non-party caretaker government system for election oversight.

The ruling Awami League headed by Hasina pushed through a constitutional amendment scrapping the caretaker government.

This move came after a Supreme Court judgement that said installation of a non-elected government for election oversight was contrary to the constructional spirit.

However, Khaleda Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has protested the decision, arguing that elections under the party government would not be fair and credible.

Already, violent street protests over the issue have left scores of people dead.

A state of emergency was imposed in 2006 that led to a two-year-long rule under a military-backed caretaker government. During that time, several top politicians including Hasina and Zia had been imprisoned.

Hasina had earlier invited the opposition parties to a dialogue to resolve the issue but with both sides refusing to budge from their stand, the uncertainty continues.

Bangladesh has a history of political turmoil and military coups. An army-backed regime was installed in Bangladesh in 2006 and a democratic government led by Awami League took power only in 2008, when the party won a three-fourths majority in the 300-seat Parliament.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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