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B'desh opposition threatens election boycott

Written by: Staff

DHAKA, May 16: Bangladesh's main opposition Awami League party has threatened to boycott parliament elections next January, citing a fraudulent voters' list released by the election commission earlier this month.

The election commission released a list of more than 91 million voters, including 21 million new voters, but the Awami League said many of the names were fictitious to ensure a victory for the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

''There can be no question of participating in an election using a fraudulent voters list. Also, we will do everything possible to resist the election,'' Awami general secretary Abdul Jalil said in a statement late yesterday.

He didn't elaborate, but political analysts said the opposition would likely step up a street campaign for wider electoral reforms including changes in the election commission -- which it says is partisan -- and to the country's system of a pre-poll caretaker administration.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, a coalition partner of the ruling party, rejected the opposition's boycott threat and said any attempt to disrupt the polls would not be tolerated.

''Bangladeshi people are generally in favour of timely and peaceful elections. And no party has enough strength to foil the vote,'' said Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Bangladesh has faced months of street protests, some over lack of electoral reforms and others over a shortage of electricity. The opposition has planned a siege of the election commission later this week and a siege of the capital Dhaka next month.

The government has rejected the protests, challenging the opposition to test its strength in the elections.


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