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January 04, 2014

Bangladesh Nationalist Party Calls for Strike Ahead of Elections

by VOA News

Bangladesh is holding parliamentary elections Sunday, despite an opposition voter boycott and pre-election violence said to include arson attacks on 100 polling stations and injuries to at least 20 poll workers and police officers.
 
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is urging voters to stay home from what the party's leader, Khaleda Zia, called a "farcical" election.
 
Ruling Awami League candidates run unopposed in more than half of the country's constituencies. Polls are set to open at 8 a.m. local time, and the Awami League is a sure winner at the polls without BNP's participation.
 
The BNP called for a 48-hour general strike Saturday, the eve of national elections, as part of efforts to undermine the election's legitimacy.
 
The boycott and other anti-government moves by the opposition make it unlikely the election will stem a wave of political violence that has killed more than 150 people in recent months.
 
The Dhaka Tribune newspaper, in a report early Sunday, said a polling officer in the northern district of Thakurgoan was beaten to death hours earlier at a polling center and that 10 others were wounded and hospitalized.
 
More than 150 people have died nationwide in recent political violence, most of them in the past two months.
 
The opposition has demanded Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down and hand over power to an interim government to oversee the election. She has refused, saying the traditional practice of doing so has led to political unrest.
 
Tens of thousands of troops have been deployed across Bangladesh to stem the political violence.
 
The United States, the European Union and the Commonwealth have refused to send observers to monitor the election.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.