B'desh oppn firm on their stance to boycott Jan 5 elections

B'desh oppn firm on their stance to boycott Jan 5 elections

Bangladesh plunged into fresh political uncertainty today as the main opposition BNP and its rightwing allies did not file nominations for the January 5 polls, sticking to their stance of boycotting the elections over the failure to form a neutral interim government.

The 18-party alliance also extended a 72-hour nationwide strike for two more days demanding the postponement of polls.

The protest was prolonged even as the deadline for submitting nomination papers elections ended today, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said it would not nominate candidates until the Awami League acceded to its demands for polls to be held under a non-party government.

"The blockade will now continue till 5:00 p.m. Thursday," BNP spokesperson Salahuddin Ahmed said in a statement.

Opposition protests have virtually paralysed the country for two weeks and the death toll in recent political violence has touched 29.

The violence continued unabated today as a minister had a narrow escape when assailants hurled crude bombs at his vehicle while another's house was attacked.
The Awami League and BNP are at loggerheads over the system for conducting the polls. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has formed a multi-party interim set-up while the BNP wants elections under a non-party interim government.

The opposition led by BNP is demanding that the polls should be shelved until the dispute is settled.

Media reports said the 18-party opposition coalition would boycott the general election, but opposition sources preferring anonymity said they will announce their stance after a UN "political mission" arrives here on December 6 to mediate the crisis.

The crisis prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to warn that Bangladeshi politicians might face prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

"In other situations, we have seen cases of political or election related violence where the perpetrators of such acts - including political leadership - have faced prosecution," Pillay said yesterday.

"In the past week, we have seen acts as extreme as protesters throwing molotov cocktails onto public buses without allowing the occupants to escape, leaving women and children with horrific burns," she said.

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