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Protests mount in Bangladesh on eve of power transfer

Written by: Staff
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DHAKA, Oct 27 (Reuters) Thousands of opposition activists demonstrated in the Bangladesh capital today threatening to disrupt an incoming caretaker administration, as Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia prepared to hand over power ahead of elections.

At least 50 people were injured in clashes between members of the main opposition Awami League and the ruling group, police said.

Several vehicles were set on fire by Awami League supporters who accuse the government of trying to install a partisan interim administration to supervise the election in January.

''No election without electoral reform,'' the activists, armed with sticks and carrying replicas of the party symbol of boat, shouted.

Khaleda's ruling Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) has said she will hand over power tomorrow at the end of her five-year term to an interim administration led by former Supreme Court chief justice KM Hasan.

But the 14-party opposition alliance led by the Awami League has refused to accept Hasan as the caretaker head, citing his past association with the ruling party.

''The opposition movement will grow stronger from tomorrow if Justice Hasan takes over,'' Tofayel Ahmed, a senior leader of Awami League, told a rally of partymen.

The opposition urged President Iajuddin Ahmed not to swear in Hasan as caretaker chief ''to save the country from a violent people's outburst.'' But the ruling party dismissed the opposition threat and said the people of Bangladesh would defeat their attempts to destablise the country.

''BNP is ready to tackle the opposition with its massive public support,'' Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, secretary-general of BNP told a separate rally of party supporters in the capital.

Street demonstrations and strikes, at times violent, often play a vital role in shaping Bangladesh's politics.

At least 100 people were injured in clashes between rival political activists in Dhaka on Thursday, police and witnesses said.

Khaleda was expected to reply to opposition charges in a national broadcast later today.

Authorities deployed extra police and the elite Rapid Action Battalion to ensure a smooth transition as the two main political parties ordered their supporters to take to the streets in a show of strength.

REUTERS PDM HT1905

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