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    » 12/29/2008, 00.00

    BANGLADESH

    Elections begin in Bangladesh amid tight security



    At least 50,000 soldiers and 600,000 policemen are deployed to secure polling stations. Local and foreign observers are monitoring the process. Peace and stability are needed to attract foreign investments.
    Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hundreds of people began queuing at the country's 35,000 heavily-guarded polling stations, which opened at 8 am (local time), to cast their ballot in parliamentary elections after two years of a military-backed caretaker government. About 50,000 soldiers and 600,000 police have been deployed to maintain security during and after voting.

    The South Asian nation of more than 140 million has a history of rigged elections, sporadic periods of military rule, and politically motivated violence.

    The outgoing army-backed caretaker government took over in January last year amidst violence and mutual charges of corruption by the country’s two main political blocks and cancelled an election due that month.

    After a period of political clean-up, the two main blocks are back, headed by the same leaders, Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

    To avoid election fraud, some 200,000 electoral observers, including 2,000 from abroad, are monitoring the vote.

    Picture ID cards have also been issued to the country’s 81 million eligible voters after more than 11 million phoney names were purged from the old voter roll.

    Although analysts have noted that voters are exited about casting their ballot, they are less hopeful about the results.

    Ms Hasina and Ms Khaleda alternated in power for 15 years as prime minister but barely dented the impoverished nation’s huge problems.

    Peace and stability are what is needed to attract foreign investments.

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    See also

    25/10/2006 BANGLADESH
    Still disagreement over electoral reform in Bangladesh

    A caretaker government should take over on October 28 and run the country till the January 2007 elections. But the ruling party and the opposition alliance are still at loggerheads over who shall head the interim administration. Awami League is urging the population to take to the streets in protest.



    12/01/2007 BANGLADESH
    National state of emergency is imposed, elections postponed, but it all seems a contrived manoeuvre
    President Iajuddin quits as head of caretaker government and delays elections as the opposition demanded. Tensions remain high though as the UN ends its support to the electoral process. For some analysts a creeping coup d’État is underway.

    03/11/2008 BANGLADESH
    Some 80 million voters to cast their ballot in parliamentary elections on 18 December
    The country’s Election Commission yesterday announced the date of the election. The two main parties want guarantees for a free and fair election and an end to the state of emergency. The names of candidates and lists must be in by 13 November.

    12/04/2007 BANGLADESH
    Ex-Bangladesh PM charged in killings
    Caretaker government’s law enforcement drive reaches Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina. The country’s powerful army is bent on wiping the slate clean of the major political parties with tacit Indian and US support.

    17/12/2008 BANGLADESH
    State of emergency lifted to pave the way for elections in Bangladesh
    Vote is scheduled for 29 December. The two former women prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, begin their campaign. Both were jailed for corruption but are now free. Army action raises doubts.



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