Thu, Dec 07, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bangladesh election protests continue


Bangladesh's main opposition yesterday threatened to continue protests with 2 million supporters from Sunday unless their demands for electoral reforms ahead of next month's elections were met.

Thousands of activists of a 14-party alliance led by Sheikh Hasina gathered around the election commission headquarters in Dhaka for a second day running yesterday to press for change.

With just six weeks to go before scheduled polls, the country is torn between those who want sweeping changes to the election and its organizers, and those who want a status quo to remain.

"Unless our demands are met within a few days we will hold an indefinite siege of the election commission office and the presidential palace and bring 2 million people from across the country to enforce the blockade," Awami League official Ashim Kumar Ukil said.

Supporters of Hasina's main rival, Begum Khaleda Zia, also rallied to insist the election go ahead under the current administration, following a schedule already set.

The country's High Court and Supreme Court ground to a halt yesterday after lawyers pledging support to rival politicians stopped work to join the protests.

Hundreds of lawyers on both sides, dressed in their formal black court robes, staged noisy rallies and marched on the courts.

Hopes for an end to the political turmoil had brightened on Tuesday after presidential advisers said a "flawed" voters' list would be corrected and updated before the poll.

They also suggested appointing a new head election officer to take over from the acting chief election.

But the current chief dismissed such a possibility, saying nobody had the constitutional right or power to replace him.

Bangladesh's constitution says the interim administration must run the country and oversee elections for three months before the poll to ensure the government of the day does not take advantage of state institutions to swing the vote.

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