01/03/2007, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Opposition to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections

by Nozrul Islam
Awami League claims caretaker government is not neutral, calls for resignation of caretaker PM, President Ahmed. For opposition leader Hasina, it is impossible to go to the polls in the present atmosphere.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – After weeks of strikes and demonstrations, Bangladesh's Awami League party and its allies have said they will boycott the January 22 parliamentary elections. Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina said the atmosphere was not conducive to a free and fair election. Alliance leaders say the caretaker government, led by President Iajuddin Ahmed since October, has failed to prove its neutrality.

In a news conference in Dhaka, Hasina, who heads the 14-party alliance, has charged that the caretaker government “is biased in favour of our opponents [the Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP]. So, we are not going to the polls.”

Ms Hasina, a former prime minister, said Mr Ahmed could stay as president, but that he should resign as head of the caretaker government.

The Awami League and its allies have called for a transport blockade throughout the country on January 7 and 8 to demand electoral reforms.

 

Awami League and its allies

The Awami League led the Bangladesh to independence in 1971 from Pakistan setting up a republic based on the principles of socialism and secularism.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the nation, was its first president and ruled from 1971 till 1975 when he and almost his entire family were murdered. His daughter Sheikh Hasina, who was abroad at the time, survived. She now leads the Awami League and served as prime minister from 1996 to 2001.

Smaller parties within the alliance range from the political centre to the extreme Communist left; some of them are Islamic moderates.

A few weeks ago, a group of some 40 BNP MPs and ministers left the party alleging corruption and violations of democratic principles and founded the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Although not part of the Awami League-led alliance, it supports the latter’s main requests and struggles at this point in time.

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