DHAKA: Former prime minister Khaleda Zia has been deemed ineligible to contest the December 30 national elections according to a recent announcement made by the Bangladesh government. Last week, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said as per recent Supreme Court ruling, anyone convicted and sentenced to two years or more in jail is not eligible to contest the elections. The three-time PM has served two full terms and once for a brief period. The 73 year old is serving a 10 year sentence for corruption charges since February.
In October, she was sentenced to seven years after been proven guilty in two graft cases involving charities named after her slain husband Ziaur Rahman. Zia is facing more than 30 other charges, ranging from corruption to sedition, which her party allege of politically influenced. Her party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has called the accusations politically motivated.
Zia had filed nominations for three parliamentary seats. However, the constitution of Bangladesh states, “A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of parliament who has been, on conviction for a criminal offense involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.” Besides Zia, the nomination of 15 high-profile candidates were also disqualified on different grounds, a spokesperson said. BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi has called his decision “ill-motivated”. He added, “The rejection of her nomination papers are part of the government's blueprint to keep her away from the election.”
Bangladesh politics stands deeply divided, with rivals Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Zia, popularly referred to as "Battling Begums", ruling the country alternately since 1991, when democracy was restored in the Islamic nation. The national elections will be held under Hasina, who currently seeks a third consecutive time amid opposition accusations that she is becoming increasingly authoritarian and the opposition is being handled with an iron fist. Meanwhile, the country’s Law Minister has left it to the Election Commission to decide the eligibility of Zia to contest the polls.