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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Campaigning ends in Bangladesh
Sheikh Hasina on the campaign trail
Both candidates are holding final rallies
Campaigning for Bangladesh's general elections is drawing to a close with final rallies by the two main candidates.

Tens of thousands of voters have travelled to their homes in the countryside from where they will cast their vote for the country's next government on Monday.

Bangladesh
Independence in 1971
Seven general elections
300 parliamentary seats
75 million voters
Outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed a large rally in the capital Dhaka on Friday - her Awami League party faces its strongest challenge from the Bangladesh National Party led by Khaleda Zia.

Security is tight in the run-up to the polls after a violent campaign in which more than 100 people have been killed.

Business participates

Reports on Friday said trains, buses and ferries were packed as people travelled to their home villages ahead of the polling day.

Both candidates have spent the past few weeks campaigning across Bangladesh addressing more than 500 election rallies each.

Poll officials said an unusual feature of this year's election was the number of top businessmen who are contesting.

Bangladesh soldiers
More than 50,000 troops have been deployed
More than 100 businessmen including former chiefs of trade and commerce bodies were in the race.

"A new political culture is emerging in the country with the participation of the business leaders in the coming general election," an economic analyst, Professor Muzaffar Ahmed, said.

In the past business leaders have expressed their concern over the frequent nationwide strikes which have hit Bangladesh over the past 10 years.

Each strike day is estimated to cost the country $66m in lost production and exports.

Heavy security

The campaign itself has been rocked by violence with two bomb blasts and several reports of clashes between rival political camps.

It has led to the army being deployed and more than 50,000 soldiers have fanned out across the country to maintain law and order.

In addition, 10,000 paramilitary soldiers, 50,000 policemen and 350,000 members of the civil defence force will be posted during Monday's vote.

Up to 200 international monitors are expected as part of an effort to ensure free and fair elections.

Bangladesh has 75 million registered voters who will cast ballots to pick a 300-member parliament.

Voting will take place at 30,000 polling centres and will begin at 0800 local time and end at 1600.

The country has had seven elected governments since independence in 1971.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jill Mcgivering reports on how
some Bangladeshi women are preparing to vote for the first time in their lives
See also:

23 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh rally bombed
07 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh poll line-up complete
17 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh hunts party office bombers
06 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
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