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Opposition Protests Disrupt Bangladesh


In Bangladesh, one person was killed and more than 50 were injured as the opposition Awami League enforced a transport blockade across the country for a second day. Opposition parties are demanding the removal of top officials who will supervise next year's general elections.

Thousands of slogan-shouting opposition protesters rallied in the streets of Dhaka Monday. They smashed the vehicles of those seen as defying calls for a strike and transport shutdown.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the protests, injuring scores of activists.

The strike has crippled public transportation across much of the country since it began on Sunday. Protesters have set fire to trains and buses, ships have been stranded at the country's main port, and demonstrators are squatting across highways to cut off the capital from the rest of the country.

A 14-party opposition alliance led by the Awami League has called the protests to press for the ouster of the Chief Election Commissioner, M.A. Aziz and his three deputies.

The opposition accuses these officials of planning to rig the forthcoming January elections in favor of the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party that was in power until last month when an interim government took charge.

The Awami League general secretary, Abdul Jalil, says the opposition protests will continue until these officials resign or are fired.

"The past ruling government, they never wanted to have a free and fair election, that is why they made policies by which they will be able to come back to power," explained Jalil. " And this conspiratorial game of the past government is still being carried out by the president."

The opposition alleges that election officials have stacked voters' lists with more than ten million fake names, and omitted names of opposition supporters. The Chief Election Commissioner denies allegations of bias and refuses to step down.

The political crisis gripping the country began last month when the opposition accused the man nominated as the head of a caretaker administration of bias. They launched protests that resulted in the deaths of more than 25 people. The country's President, Iajudin Ahmed, stepped in to break the political impasse and took charge of the government that will supervise the January elections.

But the opposition charges that he too has failed to prove his neutrality because he has not removed the election officials.

The government says it will hold talks with the country's main political parties to seek a solution and end the standoff over the election officials.

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