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Uncertainty over Bangladesh polls, Oppn protests

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 14:43 IST

Opposition parties in Bangladesh blockaded roads to protest a former chief justice being named to head the caretaker government ahead of the January 2007 general election even as European Union (EU) officials expressed doubts over whether the polls would be smooth.

The 14-party Opposition blockaded streets of Dhaka to protest against Justice KM Hasan taking over as the country's caretaker chief.

The Opposition maintains Hasan had worked under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and hence could not be seen as impartial.

The Zia government's tenure ends on October 27.

Under Bangladesh's Constitution, an interim government is required to take office three months before the elections to ensure its fairness.

Meanwhile, a team of EU officials voiced doubts over whether the polls would be held properly and on time.

The EU is one of the many foreign bodies monitoring Bangladesh's political situation.

"The EU mission has doubts about the next elections as the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and opposition Awami League (AL) are yet to sit to resolve the political impasse centring the election," HM Ershad, former president and chief of the Jatiya Party, told newsmen after a meeting with the six-member EU team of election observers.

Apart from the EU, many ambassadors and captains of trade and industry in Bangladesh have expressed concern at the widening political divide and urged leaders to sit together and talk rather than protest on the streets.

The Opposition is clamouring for electoral reforms prior to the elections.

Leader of Opposition Sheikh Hasina urged the opposition to ensure that Hasan is "unable to function", said The Daily Star newspaper.

"Come to Dhaka with whatever you can in your hands on the day the present government will step down and KM Hasan will assume office without realising our demands. We will see how the Hasan-led caretaker government and Justice MA Aziz-led Election Commission continue functioning," said Hasina, chief of the main opposition Awami League.

The former prime minister announced a countrywide blockade of roads, railways and river communications scheduled for Wednesday and a dawn-to-dusk countrywide shutdown on Thursday.

The opposition is also unhappy with the country's election body.

"The election cannot be held under the Justice Hasan-led caretaker government and Justice Aziz-led Election Commission," Hasina said, questioning the neutrality of former chief justice Hasan and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Aziz.

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