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Sunday, 19 August, 2001, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Bangladesh poll in October
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina is the first to complete a five-year term
By Waliur Rahman Miraz in Dhaka

Bangladesh's electoral commission has set 1 October as the date for the election of the country's eighth parliament.

In a televised address the chief election commissioner, MA Syed, pledged to hold a free and neutral election at any cost with total security for the voters.

Bangladesh
Independence in 1971

Population - 127.5 million

75 million eligible to vote for 300 parliamentary seats

Two presidents assassinated and three military coups

15 years of military rule

Last PM Sheikh Hasina the first to complete full term
It is the third time in Bangladesh's history that an election is being held under a caretaker administration.

According to the election schedule, the candidates must submit their nomination papers on 29 August and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is 6 September.

This will give candidates five weeks for campaigning before the vote.

The chief election commissioner's address put an end to wide-spread speculation over the poll date.

According to the country's constitution, the elections must be held before 11 October to comply with a stipulation that they be held within 90 days of parliament dissolving.

Contenders

Mr Syed said the weather remains a major problem in holding of a successful election.

He said the commission had consulted local and international weather experts when choosing the date as the time of the next election coincided with a season of rains and floods.

Bangladesh security
Security will be tight during the polls
One of the major power contenders, the Awami League party of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had earlier demanded that the vote be held in mid-September.

But its arch rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of another former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, favoured a poll in the first week of October.

Despite their differences about the voting date, the leaders of both parties say they will contest the elections.

Mr Syed said all the major parties were consulted to finalise the election date.

Warning

The commissioner assured the country's 7.5 million voters that measures including deploying the army will be taken to ensure a free and fair election and called for co-operation from the bureaucracy.

A few hours before the election schedule was announced, the chief of the caretaker administration, Latifur Rahman, warned public officials that stern action will be taken against those who fail to perform their election duties neutrally.

The last two elections were widely accepted as free and fair by both local and foreign observers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Waliur Rehman Miraj
"BNP is happy with the election schedule"
See also:

13 Jul 01 | South Asia
Three die in Bangladesh clashes
22 May 01 | South Asia
Support for Bangladesh female franchise
29 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh premier sets handover date
08 Jun 01 | South Asia
Timeline: Bangladesh
24 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
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