July 23, 2008 / 6:40 AM / 9 years ago

Bangladesh completes voter list to hold fair polls

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh has cleaned up and completed a voter registration list ahead of elections in December, officials said on Wednesday.

A woman has her photo taken with her name held up in front of her in Sreepur, 70 km from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, June 10, 2007. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman/Files

Election Commission officials said they recorded the identities, photographs and fingerprints of more than 80 million voters in less than one year at a cost of $65 million.

The new list dropped “fake names and duplicate entries”, one election commission official said. The previous list had more than 90 million voter names, many of them found to be fake in fresh registration held with the help of the army.

The completion of the new voter list was an achievement for the interim government which took office in January last year vowing fair and free elections by the year’s end.

The interim government, which cancelled elections in January last year and then announced emergency rule, embarked on a massive clean-up of local politics in preparation for the year-end voting.

Earlier this month, it introduced new election rules making it compulsory for political parties to register to take part, and giving voters the chance to reject all candidates if they thought none were suitable.

Fakhruddin Ahmed, the head of the army-backed government, which took over following months of political violence, said the demand for an error-free voters’ list with photographs was almost universal.

He said the new list, with more than 80.5 million voter names, was the most accurate.

Elections in Bangladesh are routinely marred by widespread cheating including multiple voting, wildly doctored voter rolls, intimidation and bribery.

Speaking at the launch of the new voter list, Fakhruddin said it would serve as a “model for not only the elections planned for this year but for all polls in future.”

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