A major Bangladesh political party has said it will take part in local council polls in a big boost to the army-backed government's plans for the country's smooth transition to democracy.
The Awami League said it would participate in polls for city and town councils on August 4 in a dramatic U-turn on its earlier stand to boycott all polls except the parliamentary elections.
"We are going to take part in all the city and municipal council polls on August 4," acting president of the party Zillur Rahman told AFP.
"It is a unanimous decision of the party's working committee. We are taking part in these polls for the greater interest of democracy in the country," Rahman said.
The decision by the Awami League comes as a major boost for the military-backed emergency government which announced the local council polls schedule last week, only to be fiercely opposed by top parties.
The interim government, which took power after general elections were cancelled and the emergency imposed because of political instability and violence in January 2007, is keen to hold the local polls before it stages parliamentary elections in December.
The country's two major political parties -- the Awami League and its bitter rival the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- reacted sharply against the plan to hold the local polls before general elections.
They said they would boycott the local council polls, demanding that the current government first stage the parliamentary elections and allow an elected authority to hold local polls.
The BNP has said it will hold nationwide demonstrations if the local polls go ahead.
Both parties had refused to hold talks with the government on its plans to restore democracy because their leaders have been in detention on corruption charges.
However, the Awami League has agreed to meet the government after its leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed was released earlier this month to travel to the US for medical treatment.
The government is currently in talks with the BNP about releasing its leader Khaleda Zia and her two sons, who are also being held on graft charges. The BNP says all three have serious health issues that urgently require treatment.