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Central & South Asia

Violence on eve of Bangladesh elections

At least one person has died as opposition parties, who are boycotting Sunday's poll, begin enforcing a 48-hour strike.

Last updated: 04 Jan 2014 18:48
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One opposition activists was killed and scores of ballot booths set alight on the eve of Bangladesh's election as opposition began enforcing a 48-hour general strike.

Police said the activist was killed on Saturday in the northern town of Patgram during clashes with governing Awami League supporters.

The private online newspaper Bdnews24 reported that more than 100 polling booths were burned across the country. 

But the country's chief election commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said the attacks would not derail the polls and that alternative arrangements were being made in the affected areas.

"We are worried as you are about it," he said. "We've asked for strengthening law enforcement."

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is boycotting Sunday's polls, called the Saturday strike in another attempt to torpedo a contest which is already sure to be won by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League.

Awami League candidates, or their allies, are running unopposed in 153 of the 300 parliamentary seats.

The strike comes after BNP leader Khaleda Zia issued an appeal to voters to "completely boycott" what she called "a scandalous farce" and accused the government of placing her under house arrest.

The BNP and 20 other parties are boycotting the polls after Hasina rejected their demands that it be overseen by a neutral caretaker government.

Activists detained

The build-up to the vote has been dominated by violence, with election-related unrest killing about 150 people since the date was set in October.

IN DEPTH

  Infographic: High stakes in Bangladesh vote
  Bangladesh debate: Will polls solve the crisis?
  Bangladesh on edge ahead of election
  In pictures: Bangladesh street protests
  Power rivalry paralyses Bangladesh amid riots

Observers fear the contest will spur new unrest after Bangladesh endured its bloodiest 12 months since the 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Police say 1,200 opposition activists have been detained, although opposition parties say the actual number is much higher.

The United States, European Union and Commonwealth have refused to send observers to monitor an election the opposition says lacks any credibility.

A poll published on Friday showed that 77 percent of voters are against the election.

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Source:
AFP
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