Thursday, 7 June 2007

Bangladeshi expatriates to be allowed to vote; even those with dual citizenship

Ofiul Hasnat Ruhin

The Election Commission has initiated a move to include the Bangladeshi expatriates in the electoral roll to give them the opportunity of voting for their chosen candidates from abroad. The EC has already reviewed the concerned laws and decided make some changes in the Representation of the People Order 1972 in this regard, said a commissioner on Wednesday. ‘The EC has decided to allow the Bangladeshi expatriates to exercise their right of franchise, and I hope that they will be eligible to vote in the upcoming polls,’ Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain told reporters at his office. He said that the two types of expatriates — who are staying abroad temporarily and who have dual citizenship — would be entitled to be voters, but the people who have become citizens of other countries after surrendering Bangladeshi citizenship would not be included in the list.

‘The EC has decided to enrol them through the Bangladeshi missions and the eligible expatriates will be enlisted with their local permanent addresses in the list,’ said Sohul, adding that the EC would set up special cells in the foreign missions where the enrolment forms would be available. The commissioner said that the expatriates would vote either through the Bangladeshi missions or by post, since the option for online voting would not be allowed this time. He, however, said that the expatriates should stop political activities abroad if they want to be registered as voters. ‘We decided to set the precondition of expatriates stopping politics abroad before getting registration as voters,’ he said, adding that the political activities of the expatriates have tarnished the image of the country abroad. He said that they would be allowed to form associations but any unit of the country’s political parties should not be set up abroad.

‘The political activities of the rival parties have created division and enmity among the expatriates,’ said the commissioner. He told reporters that even the foreigners who have met the EC on various occasions recommended that the political activities by Bangladeshi expatriates should be stopped. He said that about 80 lakh expatriates are working in the Middle East and United Kingdom whose involvement in political activities might have a negative impact on manpower export. An eight-member delegation of expatriates from the Middle East met Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamshul Huda on Wednesday afternoon and expressed their desire to be enlisted as voters.

‘The EC assured us that the expatriates would be included in the voters’ list,’ the delegation’s leader, Khairul Anam Yakub, told reporters after the meeting. He, however, protested against the EC’s move to ban expatriates’ political activities abroad and hoped that it would not take such an ‘unwise’ decision. ‘Everybody has the right to be involved in politics. Moreover the foreign units of different parties have aided helpless Bangladeshi expatriates abroad,’ he said.

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