Bangladesh national elections delayed to Dec. 29
By PARVEEN AHMED,Associated Press Writer AP - Monday, November 24
DHAKA, Bangladesh - National elections in emergency-ruled Bangladesh will be delayed by 11 days, the Election Commission said Sunday, following a former prime minister's demands that the polls be postponed as a condition for her party's participation.
Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda announced at a news conference that the parliamentary polls would be held on Dec. 29, after consulting with all major parties.
The commission also extended the deadline for filing nomination papers by a week to Nov. 30.
Last week, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia demanded that the elections, which were scheduled for Dec. 18, be moved back by at least 10 days to allow her Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies to choose and prepare their candidates. She had initially threatened to boycott the vote altogether if the emergency measures, in place since January 2007, were not lifted.
Huda made no comment on whether the measures would be lifted, but the government has said that some rules would be relaxed at the end of the nomination-filing process so that contestants can hold campaign rallies and marches.
At a news conference late Sunday, Zia welcomed the announcement of the new poll schedule, but added that emergency rules need to be fully suspended ahead of the voting.
She did not say whether her party would boycott the polls if the measures were not lifted.
There was no immediate word from Zia's main rival, Sheikh Hasina.
Hasina's Awami League and its allies had earlier insisted on holding the polls as originally planned.
President Iajuddin Ahmed instituted the emergency rule, including canceling scheduled elections, after weeks of violent protests demanding electoral reforms.
The interim administration has amended electoral laws and cracked down on rampant corruption, arresting dozens of top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. But most of those detained, including Zia and Hasina, are now out on bail or parole.
Both women have popular support bases in Bangladesh, a nation of 150 million people that has enjoyed a parliamentary democracy since 1991. Bangladesh was mostly ruled by military dictators after gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971.
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