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5 poll commissioners in Bangladesh resign

The removal of the five election officials was a key demand of one of the country's main political groupings.
None | By Reuters, Dhaka
UPDATED ON FEB 07, 2007 06:24 PM IST

Five senior officials at Bangladesh's election commission resigned on Wednesday, a spokesman at the presidential palace said.

The departure of the five, whose removal was a key demand of one of the country's main political groupings, raised hopes that the crisis that has gripped the country for months could soon be resolved.

President Iajuddin Ahmed summoned Commission chief Mahfuzur Rahman and his four deputies to the palace after they had defied weeks of speculation that they would bow to popular opinion and step down voluntarily.

They told the president they would resign if he asked them to do so, the spokesman said.

A multiparty grouping led by Sheikh Hasina, a former prime minister and chief of the Awami League, had accused the commissioners of bias towards her rival Begum Khaleda Zia, the immediate past premier whose five-year term ended in October.

The alliance also charged the commissioners with incompetence for failing to organise an honest and credible election on the scheduled date, January 22.

Hasina had vowed not to participate in any election supervised by Rahman and his team. Western governments and the United Nations say an election without the participation of all major parties would be unacceptable.

Bangladesh has been racked by political violence since Khaleda handed power to an interim government charged with organising a new election.

At least 45 people have been killed in the past three months and hundreds injured.

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