Page last updated at 06:18 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Bangladesh election is deferred

By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

Sheikh Hasina (l) and Khaleda Zia
Sheikh Hasina (l) and Khaleda Zia are the main contenders for power

Bangladesh's Election Commission has set a new date of 29 December for general elections.

The polls were earlier planned for 18 December but one of the country's two main parties had refused to participate saying that it needed more time.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Khaleda Zia wanted the elections to be deferred to the month of January.

Its main rival, the Awami League Party, said any delay would be unfair.

So the decision to push the date of the general elections back by only 11 days is a compromise.

'Festive mood'

The country's military-backed interim government hopes it will ensure that both main parties participate.

The government's promise to organise the fairest and most peaceful election in Bangladesh's history would have been hard if one of the main parties refused to take part.

The head of the election commission said he hoped that the parties would start campaigning on Monday in "a festive mood".

The last time Bangladesh prepared for elections, in 2006, months of strikes and street violence forced the army to step in.

The current caretaker government declared a state of emergency and locked up both party leaders on corruption charges.

But in a remarkable change of fortune, they were let out, and one of them now seems certain to be elected Bangladesh's prime minister before the end of the year.

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