Ershad Vows to Press Ahead With Bangladesh Election Plan

Associated Press

President Hussain Mohammed Ershad said Saturday that his government would go ahead with elections for Parliament next month despite a boycott by the major opposition parties.

The National Election Commission announced Friday that balloting would be held on Feb. 28, but the two major opposition alliances and the main Muslim party said they would not participate.

The opposition demands that Ershad resign, saying an election otherwise would be "farcical."

Ershad said elections would be held as planned in an address Saturday to representatives of 70 political parties that exist mostly on paper.

In a statement Saturday, a committee representing 20 opposition parties called the balloting "a new conspiracy against the nation" and said people should continue strikes and protests that began Nov. 10. At least 12 people have been killed in violence arising from the protest campaign.

Ershad, 57, took power in a bloodless coup in 1982 and won a presidential election in 1986 that the opposition contends was rigged. He has repeatedly rejected demands that he resign and appealed to the opposition to take part in next month's elections.

Bangladesh, a nation of 105 million people, has 122 registered political parties and groups, most of them small.

There have been three parliamentary elections in Bangladesh since it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971. No Parliament has completed its five-year term and the military has made itself felt in every change of government.

The country is among the world's poorest, with an annual per capita income of $150.

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