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Oppn demands electoral reforms in Bangladesh

Members and supporters of the main opposition Awami League and 13 allied parties joined the dawn-to-dusk strike in Netrokona.

india Updated: May 11, 2006 15:49 IST

A Bangladeshi Opposition alliance took to the streets of a northern town on Thursday to demand electoral reforms and a better supply of electricity, protest organisers said.

Members and supporters of the main opposition Awami League and 13 allied parties joined the dawn-to-dusk strike in Netrokona, about 130 kilometers north of the capital, Dhaka, the parties said in a statement.

Dozens of protesters took to the streets but no violence was reported, local journalist Saydur Rahman said, adding that dozens of riot police had been deployed in the town.

At least 50 people, including some police officers, were injured in clashes between protesters and security officials during an anti-government procession through Netrokona on Wednesday.

More than a dozen Opposition activists accused of attacking police in Wednesday's unrest were arrested in overnight raids, according to a statement released by police.

The Opposition alliance often calls general strikes to press its demands and to embarrass the government of the impoverished South Asian nation of 144 million people.

The alliance accuses Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government of exercising undue influence over the election commission ahead of general elections due early 2007. The parties have rejected a new voting list prepared by the commission.

The government denies the allegations and has vowed to remain in power until its five-year term expires in October, paving the way for a caretaker administration to conduct the next election.

Thursday's protesters also demanded improvements to the power supply ahead of the school examination season, saying their children's studies have been hampered by frequent power cuts.

They also demanded an investigation into the clashes a day earlier and called for the release of the detained activists. Power supplies to Bangladesh's cities and towns are often interrupted, sparking violent protests.

Bangladesh produces about 3,000 megawatts of electricity, while demand totals about 4,500 megawatts, according to the government's Power Development Board.