Bangladesh’s Parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury is possibly going to be the country’s first woman President.
Top Awami League sources told IANS that the ruling party has decided to field Chowdhury despite some factions pitching for senior party leaders like Matiya Chowdhury and Amir Hossain Amu. Some suggestions about party general secretary and roads-bridges minister Obaidul Quader as a likely candidate for President was negated by most in the Presidium and Central Executive Committee because Quader has recovered from his physical maladies and is seen as a tough old-school Awami League organiser.
“Quader must run the party in an election year when things could get tough,” said a senior leader.
Quader’s projected successor Joint General Secretary and Information Minister Hasan Mahmud is seen by many as less of a party organiser and more suitable as a possible forest-environment minister with an additional charge of science and technology.
“Hasan holds a PhD in environmental science and may be useful to plan government measures to tackle climate change fallout which is a huge issue in Bangladesh. The party also prioritises digitalisation and increasing scientific applications in all spheres like agriculture, so it is better that a senior scientist is better used for his domain expertise,” said author Sukharanjan Dasgupta.
If Shirin finally becomes President, it will be a milestone for Muslim-majority Bangladesh. Not only will she be the first woman President, but also perhaps one of the youngest ever in the world.
With Sheikh Hasina already the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister who has presided over a decade of development, it is perhaps the first time anywhere in the world that both the President and the Prime Minister are women.
When Hasina came to power in January 2009, most of her top ministers were women – like Home Minister Sahara Khatun and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni. Moni continues as Education Minister and is a strong voice against Islamist radicalism, having insisted she will continue to use teep (bindi) despite objections by mullahs.
The Election Commission (EC) has already fixed February 18 as the date for the Presidential election although earlier the EC officials had said that the Presidential election would be held between January 23 and February 23, after President Abdul Hamid steps down.
Although the name of Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury has not yet been disclosed at the Awami League’s party forum, a high-level source in the ruling party almost confirmed that considering the personality, acceptability and performance as the Speaker, the name of Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury is going to be proposed as the next President by the ruling party.