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Awami League ally to boycott polls

Dhaka, Dec. 3 (PTI): Bangladesh’s Awami League-led alliance suffered a major setback today after the Jatiya Party decided to boycott the general election on January 5.

It comes a day after the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) decided against taking part in the elections raising questions over the credibility of the polls.

Violence during Opposition protests for postponing the polls continued unabated, claiming five lives today and taking the overall toll to 35.

The Jatiya Party, the country’s third largest outfit and a key ally of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed’s Awami League, said it would not participate in the elections, blaming its sudden decision to the lack of “proper atmosphere”.

“It’s final that we will not go to the polls,” former Bangladesh President and chief of the Jatiya Party, Hussain Muhammad Ershad, said. “I promised earlier that I will not take part in the elections unless all major political parties contest the polls ... I kept my promise,” he said.

“I am not going to contest the election. The country is at the brink of disaster. We’re heading towards uncertainty,” Ershad said.

The former military ruler said party candidates who had submitted their nomination papers had been asked to withdraw their candidature before the deadline set by the Election Commission.

Ershad, who ran the country for nine years after taking power in a bloodless coup in 1981, has shifted his stance twice in the past weeks — once declining to contest the polls without the BNP’s participation and later revising his decision “in the interest of democracy”.

The BNP led by Khaleda Zia and its Right-wing ally Jamaat-e-Islami have already announced their decision not to take part in the polls over the failure to form a neutral interim government to oversee the elections.

With Ershad’s announcement, the Awami League is the only major party in the fray for the polls. Hasina has formed a multi-party interim set-up while the BNP wants elections under a non-party interim government.

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