Parliamentary Election - 29 December 2008
The parliamentary term expired in 2006, and new parliamentary elections originally planned for January 2007, had seen multiple delays. Bangladesh has been under emergency rule in the meantime.
Khaleda Zia, leader of the BNP, stepped down as prime minister in 2006. She had become prime minister following parliamentary elections in 2001, which international and domestic observers deemed free and fair. The 2001 elections, supervised by a nonparty caretaker government, took place in a climate of sporadic violence and isolated irregularities. The BNP formed a four-party coalition government with the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh Jatiya Party, and the Islami Oikko Jote; however, the BNP and the opposition AL dominated the political scene.
The office of Prime Minister was vacated upon the conclusion of the pervious parliamentary term in 2006. The 13th Amendment to the constitution required the president to offer the position of the Chief Adviser to the immediate past Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice K.M. Hasan, once the previous parliamentary session expired on October 28, 2006. The the Awami League opposed Justice Hasan, alleging that he belonged to ruling BNP in his past life and that the BNP government in 2004 amended the constitution to extend retirement age for the Supreme Court judges to make sure that Justice Hasan became the Chief Adviser during the next elections to help BNP win the election. Justice Hasan declined the position, and after two days of violent protests, President Iajuddin Ahmed also assumed the role of Chief Adviser to the caretaker government.
In January 2007 the head of state and head of the caretaker government, President Iajuddin Ahmed, declared a state of emergency and postponed elections in response to political violence and allegations of flaws in the preparation for national elections scheduled for January 22, 2007. With military support, he appointed Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former central bank governor, to head a new caretaker government. The office of Chief Caretaker Advisor, roughly equivalent to that of Prime Minister in the caretaker government, was held by Fakhruddin AHMED.
The government's human rights record worsened, in part due to the state of emergency and postponement of elections. The Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 (EPR), imposed by the government in January and effective through year's end, suspended many fundamental rights, including freedom of press, freedom of association, and the right to bail. The anticorruption drive initiated by the government, while greeted with popular support, gave rise to concerns about due process. For most of the year the government banned political activities, although this policy was enforced unevenly. While there was a significant drop in the number of extrajudicial killings by security forces, they were accused of serious abuses, including custodial deaths, arbitrary arrest and detention, and harassment of journalists. Some members of security forces acted with impunity and committed acts of physical and psychological torture.
Vigilante killings were common. Newspapers reported 108 vigilante killings throughout 2007, although local human rights organizations said the reported cases were only a fraction of the total number of actual incidents.
On 19 August 2008, the government published the Representation of the People (Amendment) Ordinance 2008, which significantly changed the electoral law that had been in place since 1972, in an attempt to address corruption in politics. The major political parties considered some of the new provisions undemocratic, such as the abolition of students' and women's wings and foreign chapters of the parties. Under the amended ordinance, candidates must reveal information about their education, wealth, and criminal records when they file to run for parliament. Political parties must submit statements to the EC outlining expenditures and sources of funds.
The election to the Parliament was held on 29 December 2008. The Awami League (AL) led by Sheikh Hasina Wazed won 230 of 299 Parliamentary seats in elections considered by international and domestic observers to be free and fair and marked by isolated irregularities and sporadic violence. The elections and the peaceful transfer of power that followed ended two years of rule by a military-backed caretaker government.
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