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Bangladesh opposition demands chief election official quit

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s main opposition alliance on Tuesday demanded the resignation of the chief election commissioner, accusing him of bias, ahead of Sunday’s elections while violence worsens, officials and news reports said.

Opposition spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Tuesday night that they demanded the resignation of K.M.Nurul Huda as they did not expect a free and fair election under him. He urged the country’s figurehead president to appoint a neutral person instead.

Alamgir, who is the secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, told a news conference they made the call after senior leaders from an anti-government alliance walked out of a meeting with Huda.

He said a meeting between opposition leaders and election officials failed after the opposition alliance noted instances of attacks since campaigning started Dec. 10.

“But without paying heed to our allegations, the chief election commissioner talked in a biased and discourteous way that made us frustrated and shocked,” he said. “It is impossible to get neutral behavior let alone expecting a free, fair and neutral election under him.”

Election officials refused to speak to media about the meeting details.

Official and media tallies say more than 100 people, mostly from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, were injured in political violence Tuesday.

Supporters of the ruling Awami League and the opposition parties clashed in Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar, Mymensingh, Chittagong and Sylhet districts, leading English-language Daily Star newspaper and domestic Jamuna Television reported.

Daily Star also said some 250 opposition supporters have been arrested since Monday night.

At least six people have been killed and more than 1000 have been injured since Dec. 10. Both opposition and ruling party blame each other for attacks, but media reports say most attacks were executed by the ruling party members and often backed by security officials.

On Monday, authorities deployed thousands of army soldiers across the country to work as a striking force for holding the election.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is seeking to return to power for a third consecutive time amid opposition allegations that the elections could be rigged. Authorities have pledged a free and fair election.

The country’s 11th general election is going to happen amid opposition allegations that thousands of its leaders and activists have been arrested to weaken them. But authorities say the arrests are not politically motivated and the opposition is trying to create chaos ahead of elections.

Earlier this month, New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the international community to press the Bangladesh government to create conditions for a free and fair election.

The group criticized Bangladeshi security forces for “arresting and intimidating opposition figures and threatening freedom of expression ahead of the election.”

Zia’s party is the main partner of the newly formed anti-government alliance Oikyafront that has thrown a challenge to the incumbent government of Hasina. Kamal Hossain, a prominent lawyer and a former foreign minister, is leading the alliance after Zia was disqualified by a court because she is serving prison terms for corruption.

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