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Bangladesh delays elections following protests

Bangladesh delays elections following protests

Bangladesh's next elections will be postponed for two days until Jan. 23 because of protests by a major political alliance, an official said Thursday.
The 14-party alliance has demanded that authorities delay the polls, update a disputed voter list and reform the Election Commission.
The elections, originally set for Jan. 21, will be held on Jan. 23, Abdur Rashid Sarkar, secretary of the Election Commission, told reporters.
Earlier Thursday, thousands of protesters blocked traffic in Bangladesh's capital to pressure authorities to revise the voter list and reform the commission.
The demonstrators took to the streets despite efforts by the country's interim government to resolve a political standoff threatening the elections.
Also on Thursday, three advisers of the interim government met with leaders of the alliance in a bid to end the impasse.
"We are discussing the electoral reforms and we will meet again," a spokesman of the alliance, Abdul Jalil, said after the meeting at a state guest house in Dhaka.
Later, the same advisers sat with leaders of a rival four-party coalition headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.
"We have discussed all the disputed issues with both camps," interim government spokesman Mahbubul Alam said.
"Both parties have agreed on some issues. We want all parties join the election race to advance the country's democracy," Alam said.
There was no immediate word from the feuding camps about the changed schedule.
Under the Constitution, elections must be held within 90 days of the end of an incumbent's term. Zia's five-year term ended on Oct. 28.
Meanwhile, the election officials met at the commission's office, cordoned off by thousands of security personnel manning barbed-wire barricades to keep protesters away.
Streets around the office were closed to traffic, causing serious traffic snarls in other parts of the city of 10 million people.
No violence was reported.
The alliance, headed by Sheikh Hasina, another former prime minister, says the voter list contains duplicate and fake names, and that it favors Zia's four-party coalition.
Hasina's alliance suspended a countrywide transport blockade on Monday after the caretaker government urged the commission to revise the voter list and reschedule the polls after weeks of furious demonstrations and strikes that left four people dead.
The alliance has threatened to stage bigger protests if the reforms are not implemented within days.
A recent survey by the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute found the voter list contains duplicate names. The survey found no evidence of false names or mass omissions, the institute's director in Dhaka, Owen Lippert, said Monday.
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Associated Press writer Julhas Alam contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-17 04:06 GMT+08:00