Bangladesh to hold parliamentary elections in January

Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Khaleda Zia (left) and Sheikh Hasina (right) have dominated Bangladeshi politics for more than two decades

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Bangladesh's parliamentary election will be held on 5 January, chief election commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad has announced.

Angry opposition parties have responded by announcing a 48-hour nationwide blockade of roads, rail and waterways beginning on Tuesday.

They want PM Sheikh Hasina of the ruling Awami League to resign and transfer power to a caretaker government ahead of the polls.

But Ms Hasina has rejected this demand.

Caretaker governments previously oversaw elections, but Ms Hasina scrapped the arrangement in 2011.

'Impasse'

In a televised statement, Mr Ahmad said his organisation would do everything possible to ensure the poll was peaceful, free and fair.

"I've asked all political parties to uphold the will of the people, maintain peace and compromise.

"Army troops will be deployed to assist the law enforcement agencies so people can vote freely," he said.

Start Quote

We ask that the schedule be kept on hold until a settlement is reached”

End Quote Fakhrul Islam Alamgir BNP spokesman

Last week Ms Hasina put together a multi-party coalition and offered her rival, Khaleda Zia of the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP), any post she wanted.

Ms Zia refused the offer.

The two women have been at loggerheads for years.

Mr Ahmad said he had asked President Abdul Hamid to broker a peace deal between the two women and their respective parties.

"We've asked the president to personally initiate special steps and end this unbearable impasse," he said.

A spokesman for the BNP, Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, told reporters "we will not accept any farce in the name of elections".

"We ask that the schedule be kept on hold until a settlement is reached," he said.

Last month, opposition parties staged a three-day strike, spearheaded by the BNP, in which several people were killed.

The BNP fears the Awami League will rig the elections if it remains in power instead of the caretaker government.

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