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Boycott puts Bangladesh polls in doubt

More parties refusing to stand for election

Boycott puts Bangladesh polls in doubt

Bangladesh opposition supporters protest in Dhaka calling for January 5 polls to be suspended (photo Shahadat Hosen) reporter, Dhaka

December 4, 2013

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The ruling Awami League’s plan to hold general elections in Bangladesh on January 5 suffered a fresh blow on Tuesday when a key ally announced it would boycott the polls.

The decision by the Jatiya Party (JP), which quit Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Grand Alliance coalition last month, follows the announcement on Monday by opposition parties that they would not take part in the polls.

The opposition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) announced their boycott after the prime minister refused their demand that she step down so a non-partisan caretaker government can oversee the election.

The long-running dispute has led to violent protests in recent weeks by opposition supporters in which dozens of people have been killed.

As a result the current political climate makes a “free, fair and inclusive election” unlikely, JP chairman, HM Ershad said on Tuesday.

“The Jatiya Party will not contest the parliamentary election because all political parties have not submitted nomination papers for the polls,” said Ershad.

The deadline for submitting nomination papers for the elections expired on Monday.

“Earlier I said I would go to the polls if all the parties were taking part. Since this is not happening, I am not taking part in the polls…I have kept my promise,” said the former military officer who ruled Bangladesh from 1982-90 until he was ousted in a popular uprising.

The Jatiya Party is the country’s third largest after the ruling Awami League and opposition BNP. It quit the Grand Alliance last month to make way for an interim caretaker government.

Ruling party lawmakers say the elections will go ahead and expressed hope the JP would take part.

“The Awami League has proved that free and fair elections can be held under a partisan government. So, we hope the Jatiya Party will join the polls,” said Suranjit Sengupta, a senior Awami League parliamentarian.

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