| Police beat a protester in Dhaka on Sunday. (AFP)
Dhaka, Jan. 7 (AP): Bangladesh braced for a second day of unrest after riot police clashed today with thousands of protesters demanding electoral reforms and postponement of January 22 elections.
The police used batons, teargas and rubber bullets on stick-wielding, stone-throwing demonstrators in the capital. Several protesters and police were hurt.
Schools and businesses were closed and transport was disrupted nationwide as a three-day transport blockade, imposed by a 19-party alliance, started today.
The alliance, led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said it plans to keep blocking roads, railways and river routes tomorrow and on Tuesday to isolate Dhaka from the rest of the country in an effort to force its demands.
But Bangladesh’s interim leader, President Iajuddin Ahmed, said he could not change the election date because it was mandated by the country’s constitution.
About 12,000 security forces patrolled Dhaka’s streets amid fears of a repeat of the violence that has marred previous protests, and has left at least 34 dead since October.
Today’s clashes took place near the Awami League headquarters, where about 2,000 people demonstrated, then spread to two nearby areas.
About a dozen protesters were seriously injured in one area when police charged with batons, a witness said. Similar violence occurred in a nearby area, where police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters near the home of an Awami League leader.
“I’m committed to handing over power to an elected government through holding elections in time. I seek cooperation from all in protecting the constitution,” the President said yesterday.
Under the constitution, the interim government has only 90 days to hold the elections. Ahmed took over as interim leader on October 29 and his term expires on January 25.