08/04/2008, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Local elections in four Bangladeshi cities

Despite the state of emergency, more than 1.2 million voters are called to cast their ballot to elect officials in four cities and nine municipalities. This vote is a test for the upcoming general elections in late December despite protests over its timing and procedures.
Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Bangladeshis are voting in four city corporations and nine municipalities, the first polls since the caretaker government declared a state of emergency in January 2007 in what is a rehearsal for the general elections scheduled for next December.

The country's election commission said it hoped the local polls will be a model for the general elections. But Bangladesh's two main parties condemned the timing of the local elections, saying that the general elections should have gone first. Announced several times, the national poll was postponed till this December.

Army and police have been deployed in the streets and near polling stations in the four cities voting—Sylht, Khulna, Borsial and Rajshahi—where 1.2 million voters are called to cast their ballot. So far no incidents have been reported.

Officially candidates should be “independent” but each is backed more or less directly by a political party.

In theory at least the outcome should show where the parties stand ahead of the upcoming general elections and who might win.

The two main parties have come out against today’s election. The Awami League said free and fair elections could not be held under a state of emergency, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party called for protests.

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