Dhaka: Amid a tense face-off between the Awami League and the BNP on the electoral system, Bangladesh's poll panel today announced that the general election would be held on January 5. "The voting will be held on January 5, 2014," Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed said.
Authorities put in place tight security in the capital to contain a possible backlash by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is spearheading a campaign for polls under a non-party interim government.
The polls will be overseen by a multi-party caretaker set-up formed recently by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina but the BNP has claimed that elections held under her watch would not be credible. Ahmed said the Election Commission, a statutory independent body, had waited for the two major parties to reach an understanding on the electoral system "but now we don't have time to delay further".
The poll panel, he said, was obligated to hold the election by January 24, 2014 under a constitutional deadline. "We repeatedly urged the major parties to reach a consensus to fulfil the nation's expectations. We still hope they will not ignore the expectations," Ahmed said.
The BNP-led opposition alliance did not immediately react to the Election Commission's announcement but a senior BNP leader said earlier in the day that the government would face dire consequences if it went ahead with its plan to hold the polls without meeting the party's demands.
Personnel from the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion and riot police were called out to patrol Dhaka's streets. Traffic on busy thoroughfares appeared thinner as fears of fresh political violence gripped people.
"BGB troops were deployed in the evening to maintain peace and security in the city," a spokesman for the paramilitary force told reporters. Deadly clashes during protests by the BNP and its allies claimed 31 lives over the past three weeks. The violent demonstrations also left scores injured, many with burn injuries as protestors torched over 500 vehicles.
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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2013 21:49:34 IST