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Bangladesh opposition wants parliamentary polls put off

Tuesday, 3 December 2013 - 1:13pm IST | Place: DHAKA | Agency: IANS

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has urged the Election Commission to postpone the January 5 parliamentary elections in order to "save the country" as the countrywide blockade of road, rail and water transport called by the BNP-led opposition alliance entered the third day on Monday.

"Instead of being used as the puppet of a particular party, put off the announced polls schedule and save the country," BNP chairperson and opposition leader Khaleda Zia was quoted as saying by the Daily Star. She did not name the country, but her target was believed to be India.

The two major political parties of Bangladesh — the BNP and Sheikh Hasina's Awami League (AL) — are at loggerheads over the polls-time dispensation as the Bangladesh Election Commission has decided to hold the country's 10th parliamentary election Jan 5 next year.

Bangladesh's main opposition Friday announced a 72-hour blockade from Saturday to press home its demand for a non-party caretaker government to oversee the January 5 national elections.

In a statement issued Monday evening, Zia accused the ruling Awami League for the recent violence. She called on the administration, including police, not to "go against the people".At least 25 people have been killed during the ongoing countrywide blockades.

However, the BNP chairperson did not clarify whether the opposition bloc she leads would put an end to the current spate of violent blockades battering the country. She, however, said the door to an agreement with the government to end the political deadlock is still open.

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed hinted at a change in the election schedule only if the government and opposition were to reach an agreement, bdnews24.com reported. Monday was the last day for submitting the nomination but neither the BNP nor its allies in the opposition submitted nomination to run for parliament.

"But we are still hopeful (of the opposition joining polls). Everything is possible if there is a positive and definite outcome and an agreement is reached," Ahmed said.

The BNP chairperson has asked Sheikh Hasina to bring back the non-party caretaker system, or else the opposition would not participate in the next elections because it fears the polls without the non-party caretaker government will not be free and fair.

Both parties are seeking dialogue to end the impasse over the formation of the poll-time government, but no headway has been made so far.

The 18-party opposition alliance is enforcing shutdowns and blockades to push for a non-party polls-time government, while the Awami League-led government is preparing to hold the election after constituting an "all-party" interim cabinet.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has offered the home ministry in the all-party interim cabinet to the opposition BNP in an appeal to it to join the polls.


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