Bangladesh Vote Set for Feb. 28; Opposition Wary

Associated Press

Election officials announced Friday that voting for Parliament will be held Feb. 28, but opposition leaders said they will not participate unless President Hussain Mohammed Ershad resigns.

"We want elections, but they must be held under a neutral caretaker government to ensure free and fair voting," said Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

"We want President Ershad to resign and not hold these farcical elections to bluff the nation," she said.

Hasina Wajed, the other major opposition leader, said, "We shall not participate in elections if held under Ershad."

Ershad, besieged by an ongoing campaign against his government, agreed to hold elections to defuse a political crisis caused by demands for his ouster. He dissolved Parliament on Dec. 6 after a series of anti-government strikes and demonstrations, but he has refused to step down.

Ershad Going Abroad

There was no immediate indication what role Ershad might take in the election. The president is scheduled to leave Monday for an official visit to Egypt and go on to Iraq on Thursday. No date was announced for his return.

In the last elections, in 1986, Ershad's Jatiya Party won 213 of Parliament's 330 seats. Ershad, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1982, was elected president in a separate election the same year.

The opposition has charged that the elections were fraudulent.

Wajed's Awami League won 74 seats in 1986. Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted that election.

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