Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 17:28 UK

Bangladesh to hold local election

A policeman faces stone-throwing protesters in Dhaka
General elections were postponed last year after months of violence

Elections to local councils in Bangladesh are to be held on 4 August.

Electoral officials said the votes - the first under an army-backed interim government - would be for four city corporations and nine municipalities.

The announcement was criticised by the main political parties, who said holding local votes before national elections was unconstitutional.

General elections due last year were postponed after political violence and are now to be held in December.

Emergency eased

Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda said voters would elect four city corporations - Rajshahi, Barisal, Sylhet and Khulna - as well as nine municipalities on 4 August.

Elections will take place later for the two other city corporations - Dhaka and Chittagong - and the rest of the country's more than 300 municipalities.

Emergency measures will be relaxed in areas where voting takes place.

The government said political campaigning and rallies would be allowed in those areas from mid-July until voting day.

Bangladesh's two main parties condemned the timing of the local elections.

The Awami League said free and fair elections could not be held under a state of emergency, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party called for protests.

Observers say they both fear their power base may be weakened by the local vote.

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