Bangladesh General Elections are scheduled to be held on January 7. (Reuters/File)

Bangladesh opposition calls nationwide strike, demands cancellation of Jan 7 polls

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on Thursday called a 48-hour nationwide strike demanding the cancellation of the January 7 general elections, claiming that it was meant to install Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League government for a fourth straight term.

The announcement came a day after Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal said that the much-awaited general elections will be held on January 7.

BNP’s senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi called the two-day general strike starting from 6 AM Sunday.

Former premier Khaleda Zia-led party has rejected the announcement of the election schedule and vowed to continue protesting against the government’s decision to carry on with the election process.

“Everybody in Bangladesh knows the outcome of this election,” senior BNP leader Abdul Moyeen Khan said.

Several BNP allies including far right Jamaat-e-Islami extended support for the strike call, prompting law enforcement agencies to intensify countrywide security vigil and also calling out paramilitary troops to guard the highways and major cities.

The opposition continued to enforce intermittent nationwide transport blockades since October 28, disrupting supply systems, demanding Prime Minister Hasina’s resignation to make way for a neutral government to conduct the polls.

Chief Election Commissioner Awal on Wednesday said a smooth election required a congenial atmosphere but “for a long time there were differences of opinion among political leadership on the question of election, particularly over the institutional method of the polling”.

In a veiled reference to the BNP and its allies, Awal said his office invited all registered political parties who were “reluctant” to take part in the upcoming polls to hold dialogue with the Commission but “they rejected the invitation”.

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