Protesters in Dhaka ask poll chief to quit
The activists asked election commissioner MA Aziz to quit and stop preparing a new voters list in defiance of a High Court order.india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 15:35 IST
Thousands of Bangladeshi opposition activists marched in the capital on Wednesday, demanding the top election official quit, accusing him of backing the government.
Hundreds of riot police blocked the protesters from marching to the headquarters of the Election Commission in Dhaka, placing barbed-wire barricades across the streets.
They chanted calls for Chief Election Commissioner MA Aziz to quit and stop preparing a new voters list in defiance of a High Court order.
Opposition leaders say registered voters who are not supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party or its Islamic allies could be dropped from a new list.
They plan bigger protests across the country on Thursday, despite fears of arrest or trouble. Today's rally was peaceful and there were no arrests.
"We will allow no election under MA Aziz," said Jahangir Kabir Nanak, chief of the youth wing of the main opposition party, the Awami League.
Nanak said Aziz supported the four-party ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, and urged Bangladeshis to "foil their conspiracy to manipulate the coming election".
The election is due in January 2007, but an Awami-led 14-party alliance wants it sooner, accusing Khaleda of mismanagement.
The two other election commissioners oppose the plan for a new roll, but late on Tuesday President Iajuddin Ahmed appointed two more members to the commission, bringing the total number to five, including Aziz.
"We will go for a harsher campaign if ... Aziz does not resign and the appointments of the two new ... Members are not cancelled," said Nanak.
Opposition parties have also called for a national strike on Sunday, a working day in the mainly Muslim nation of 140 million.
Awami chief Sheikh Hasina, a former prime minister, said today the appointments were intended to strengthen Aziz.
The opposition wants the commission to implement a High Court order to update the existing electoral roll rather than draft a new one.