Dhaka: Bangladesh’s election commission today rejected jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s plea challenging the cancellation of her nomination, virtually ending her hopes of contesting the upcoming general election.
“The commission rejected her petition by 4-1 votes…the CEC (chief election commissioner) and three other commissioners were on one side while one of the commissioners was in favour of her candidature,” an EC spokesman said.
The Bangladesh High Court had earlier issued an order disqualifying 73-year-old Zia, now serving a 10-year prison term in two corruption cases, from contesting the December 30 polls saying people jailed for more than two years with their appeals pending in court cannot fight elections.
The opposition BNP leader has been in prison since February when a lower court sentenced her to a five-year term in the first of the two graft cases.
Zia had filed nomination papers from three constituencies, two in northwestern Bogra and one in southeastern Feni.
The EC’s decision comes a week after returning officers scrapped nomination papers of Zia and several other high-profile politicians, mostly opposition candidates, as they were convicted by courts on graft and other charges, and due to defaulting bank loans or technical flaws in their nomination papers.
Many of them, however, were allowed to contest the polls as the EC reviewed their appeals challenging the returning officers’ decisions.
According to election rules, candidates declared ineligible to contest polls can appeal to an EC tribunal or can challenge the decision in the High Court.
Most of the disqualified candidates were nominees of BNP and its partners in the newly-formed opposition alliance National Unity Front (NUF), led by eminent jurist Kamal Hossain.
The December 30 election is crucial for Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which boycotted the 2014 polls demanding a neutral non-party government and instead waged a violent street campaign in subsequent years.
Analysts say political and legal obligations largely forced the BNP to take part in the polls as it was in danger of losing its registration with the EC as a political party if it boycotted elections for the second consecutive time and was also facing structural erosion from within.
The party remains in a state of disarray with Zia’s imprisonment while her “fugitive” elder son and acting BNP chief Tarique Rahman is living in London after a Dhaka court sentenced him to life imprisonment for masterminding a deadly attack on a political rally in 2004 that killed 24 leaders and activists of the rival Awami League led by current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who narrowly escaped the assault.