Bangladesh's third-largest party announced it will boycott elections this month after the election commission yesterday rejected pleas by its leader to contest polls.
Former military strongman, General Hussain Mohammad Ershad, who heads the Jatiya Party, made an appeal to contest in five parliament constituencies after his nomination was barred by local election offices last week.
"The election commission heard his five appeals today and rejected all of them. He cannot now participate in the January 22 national elections," commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman said.
A.B.M. Ruhul Amin Howlader, secretary-general of Jatiya Party, said his party would not take part in the election after the rejection.
"We will boycott the elections. Our stand is firm and clear: no Ershad, no elections," Howlader said, adding the decision to bar Ershad from elections was "politically motivated".
The Jatiya Party was the third-largest in Bangladesh's outgoing parliament and is allied with the main opposition Awami League party in the upcoming polls.
Howlader said yesterday the party would go to the Supreme Court to make a last-ditch attempt to save Ershad's application.
The appeals to the election commission were spurned after the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea by Ershad to overturn a two-year jail sentence given by a lower court three years ago for squandering government funds.
Bangladeshi law bars anyone with a criminal record from contesting parliamentary elections for five years following completion of the sentence.
Ershad is a popular political figure and was seen as a potential kingmaker in the elections. He seized power in a bloodless coup in March 1982, but was ousted by a people's revolt in 1990.
The opposition and its allies have accused the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party of appointing party loyalists to key positions in the caretaker government and election commission in an attempt to rig the polls.
But earlier this month they agreed to participate in the polls and end protests that left at least 35 dead since October and caused massive disruption in the country.