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Cablegate: Government Unveils Roadmap to Elections by End Of

VZCZCXRO3461
RR RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #1153 1970814
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160814Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4519
INFO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8008
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1735
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9178
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0032
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0830
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS DHAKA 001153

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KGOV KDEM BG
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT UNVEILS ROADMAP TO ELECTIONS BY END OF
2008

REF: DHAKA 1095

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Bangladesh's Chief Election Commissioner
(CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda announced a "roadmap" for elections in
a press conference on July 15. The plan calls for national
polls by December 2008, with staggered local elections
beginning in January 2008. END SUMMARY.

NATIONAL ELECTIONS BY DECEMBER '08
==================================

2. (SBU) In a press conference on July 15, Bangladesh's Chief
Election Commissioner (CEC), ATM Shamsul Huda, announced a
"roadmap" for holding the postponed parliamentary elections
originally scheduled for January 2007. The timeline calls
for national elections by December 2008, with municipal
elections taking place on a staggered basis beginning in
January 2008.

3. (SBU) Huda said a draft voter list with photographs will
be finished and publicly posted by June 2008, followed by a
six- to eight-week period for corrections. The final list
will be completed and printed by October 2008. Voter
registration will start first in Rajshahi in mid-August,
based on the methodology used in the voter registration pilot
project in Sreepur (reftel). The entire registration process
will require 200,000 enumerators and 150,000 data entry
personnel working out of 30,000 voter registration centers
around the country.

PARTY DIALOGUE IN SEPTEMBER
===========================

4. (SBU) The Commission will begin meeting with parties to
discuss electoral reforms in September 2007. Political
parties will be required to register with the Election
Commission by June 2008 to be able to participation in the
December 2008 parliamentary elections.

MANDATORY REDRAWING OF CONSTITUENCIES...
========================================

5. (SBU) The CEC announced that the Commission was required
by law to redraw constituencies -- something the previous
government failed to do after the 2001 census. This exercise
will run from January to June 2008.

AND A TENTATIVE "NO" TO TRANSPARENT BALLOT BOXES
============================================= ===

6. (SBU) Huda said that after close examination of the issue,
including reviewing input international donors gave the
Election Commission in November, they believe using
transparent ballot boxes in the future parliamentary
elections would be too expensive, "unsustainable," and have a
negligible effect on the electoral process. He added,
however, that no "final decision" had been made, and
international donor funding may be available to fund
transparent ballot boxes if the Commission ultimately chooses
to use them.

7. (SBU) Huda added that he would request the government ease
the state of emergency "if needed" to start holding municipal
elections. He added that if the voter registration process
proceeds more quickly than expected, the December 2008
election date could be moved up.

MUTED PARTY REACTIONS
=====================

8. (SBU) Reaction from the two main political parties was
limited. In reacting to the CEC's announcement, Awami League
Presidium member Motia Chowdhury said preparations for the
next elections were taking too much time and complained
(incorrectly) that the CEC failed to mention anything about
the Awami League's demand for transparent ballot boxes.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party Joint Secretary Ashraf Hossain
expressed support for the roadmap, though he added an
official BNP reaction would be forthcoming.
PASI

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