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Bangladesh election chief to step aside: Reports

MA Aziz has been at the centre of a crisis that has seen opposition protests and transport blockades bring the nation to a standstill.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2006 15:57 IST

Bangladesh's disputed election chief is set to step aside and put an end to the political crisis paralysing the country, media reports said on Tuesday.

Daily Star said in a front page report that MA Aziz, whom the opposition accuse of trying to rig next January's general elections, "with all probability may either go on leave until the elections are over or resign in a couple of days".

The paper said the chief election commissioner had hinted to a delegation of interim cabinet members who visited him on Monday that he was likely to go on extended leave to perform the Muslim hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia next month.

"The commissioner is learnt to have agreed to proceed on leave in the face of mounting agitation across the country for his resignation," the Bangladesh Today daily also reported.

Aziz has been at the centre of a crisis that has seen opposition protests and transport blockades bring the nation to a standstill.

The main opposition Awami League has vowed to continue with its protests until he is removed.

But so far Aziz has steadfastly refused to step down despite the crisis, which is costing Bangladesh's garment industry -- a mainstay of the impoverished country's economy -- an estimated 74 million dollars a day.

The opposition has threatened to boycott the January elections unless Aziz is sacked. It accuses him of seeking to influence the polls in favour of the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government by drawing up a voter list with 10 million fake voters.

Interim cabinet member Mahbubul Alam told reporters late on Monday he expected the row to be resolved within 48 hours.

"We finally see light at the end of the tunnel. We hope we will get a result within the next 24 to 48 hours," he said.