Led by Sheikh Hasina, a former prime minister, the new 19-party opposition alliance wants the ballot to be delayed until electoral reforms, including the revision of a voter list, are carried out.

The alliance also wants Iajuddin Ahmed, the president and head of the current interim administration, to step down.

The opposition says the election commission and the president are favouring the rival alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia.

Zia was the prime minister till October when she handed over power to the interim administration in view of the impending polls.

The president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry meanwhile said the boycott would render the elections meaningless, cause more turmoil and hurt the economy.

 

"Politics will now be more unstable. Our economy will be its worst victim," said Mir Nasir Hossain. "Elections without participation of all political parties will not be meaningful."