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Bangladesh defers general elections

The president has agreed to the Opposition demands to postpone general elections scheduled for January 22.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2007 15:15 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed has agreed to opposition demands to postpone general elections scheduled for January 22 to ensure "free and fair polls" at a later date.

Hours after declaring a state of emergency in Bangladesh on Thursday evening, Ahmed announced that he was quitting as head of the interim government, giving in to a key demand of the opposition Awami League that was set to boycott the elections, terming them a "farcical exercise".

Soon afterward, the president also announced a postponement of the polls.

"The elections will be postponed. The president wants to hold elections that are acceptable to all political parties, at home and abroad," presidential press advisor Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury said late on Thursday.

"Along with the president, nine interim cabinet members are going to resign, and Supreme Court justice Fazlul Haq will take over as acting chief of the interim government," he said.

Opposition parties, led by the Awami League, had threatened a series of non-stop protests, blockades and strikes.

They decided to boycott the elections, alleging that the polls have been rigged in favour of the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and demanded a complete overhaul of the voters' list.

"The voter list will be corrected," the spokesperson said.

Ahmed had said Thursday: "In another two or three days I will set up an interim advisory council to run the government and till then the senior-most advisor (Haq) of the present (government) would officiate.

"The interim authority will soon discuss all issues and ensure a free and fair election in Bangladesh soon."

He added: "My appointment has divided the nation and the people in two poles. So for the sake of the country's progress and development, this controversy must end and hence I have decided to resign," said Ahmed, who headed the caretaker government entrusted with the responsibility of holding the elections.

"The armed forces have been called in to maintain law and order and help in the process of setting up a government desired by the people. I hope (the army) would do their duty efficiently and live up to their earlier reputation."

Ahmed's move followed the decision of the UN and the European Union to suspend the monitoring duties of their election observers.

Much to the glee of the Awami League and its allies, the international bodies said that the political crisis had jeopardised the legitimacy of the polls.

The declaration of emergency means suspension of all fundamental rights of the people. Over 60,000 troops have been deployed across the country to prevent clashes.

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