Bangladeshi expats given right to vote in elections

by Ray Clancy on September 7, 2010

Bangladeshi expats have been granted the right to vote from overseas after the country’s cabinet finally bowed to pressure from campaigning groups.

Prime Minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said the decision would pave the way for six million expats living and working in more than 100 foreign countries to participate in all elections in Bangladesh.

‘The cabinet has approved the amendment to the electoral rolls law to allow the expatriates to register as voters at the places of their origin without considering whether or not they have movable or immovable assets there,’ he said.

Bangladeshis who hold dual citizenship in line with the Bangladesh Citizenship (Temporary Provisions) Order 1972 will also be registered as voters. Bangladeshis living abroad temporarily would be considered as voters of the constituency they come from.

Expat campaigning groups have long been pushing the government for the right to exercise their voting rights from other countries.

‘Voting is a basic right as a citizen of Bangladesh,’ said Abdur Rahman, president of the International Expatriates Welfare Association of Bangladesh.

He suggested that it would be possible for the Election Commission to include the names of expat citizens on the electoral register within a few weeks. Citizens would be able to cast their votes through Bangladesh’s missions in countries abroad.

Bangladesh missions abroad would collect voter application forms for dual citizenship holders and send them to the Election Commission after preparing a district wide primary list, said EC officials. They said that the commission would send the application forms to the district registration officers for scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi banks are increasingly competing to provide the most suitable services for expats. A report from Bangladesh Bank shows that expats are sending a record amount of money back home. It says remittances totalled $10.97 billion last year.

Banks are offering a range of new investments and other banking service to the market. These include loans for small and medium business enterprises, investment in tax-free US bonds, home loans and investments in stocks.

Several institutions, including BRAC Bank, The City Bank, Mercantile Bank and the Mutual Trust Bank have opened special departments solely to deal with the financial interests of their expat clients.

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