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UN Suspends Support for Bangladesh Elections


The United Nations is suspending technical support for parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. The elections are being boycotted by one of the country's two main political alliances. As Anajana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the United Nations has expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in the country.

The United Nations says the boycott of the January 22 elections by a major opposition alliance has severely jeopardized the legitimacy of the country's electoral process. The U.N. says it will suspend all technical support for the polls. This includes consultation services on publishing results, as well as on casting and counting ballots.

On Wednesday, two Washington-based organizations, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, suspended plans to observe the election because of the unstable political climate.

The elections were thrown into disarray last week when the multiparty alliance led by the Awami League accused the caretaker authority organizing the polls of bias and pulled out of the race.

The Awami League, which was in opposition during the last parliament, has staged scores of protests, some of them violent. It has vowed to disrupt the polls unless the administration meets its demands for electoral reform.

The executive director of Dhaka Center for Policy Dialogue, Debapriya Bhattacharya, says the decision by the U.N. and interational monitors to withdraw their support is not surprising.

"We are not going to have, regrettably, an acceptable government which is going to come through this process," he said. "Obviously, if the international community goes on observing non-competitive elections, then it is going to create problems for the international community because they are going to give legitimacy to the whole process by observing it."

The United Nations has urged the army, which has been deployed to strengthen law and order, to remain neutral and has called on political parties to refrain from violence. It has also asked the caretaker government to create a level playing field and ensure that political parties have confidence in the electoral process.

The interim authority in Dhaka dismisses charges of bias and says it will go ahead with the elections because it is bound by the constitution to install a new government by January 25.