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Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Bangladesh opposition walks out

By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

BNP leader Khaleda Zia
BNP leader Khaleda Zia - her party was well beaten in December

Bangladesh's main opposition party has walked out of parliament in protest at the seating arrangements.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party has complained about the number of front bench seats it has been allocated.

The BNP has complained that the governing Awami League wants to exclude it from parliament.

Bangladesh's new parliament was elected at the end of December in a wave of excitement and with an 87% turnout that was a record.

But it has got off to a bad start.

On Sunday, the first day of this first session, the MPs of the BNP walked out in protest over President Iajuddin Ahmed.

They said that the largely ceremonial figure had acted unconstitutionally in supporting the army-backed caretaker government which ruled Bangladesh for two years up until the elections.

They walked out of the second day as well when parliament resumed on Wednesday.

The MPs have refused to accept the Speaker's decision to allocate them only four seats on the front bench.

He has said that this is only fair, because the BNP has only 30 out of the 300 seats.

The BNP however argues that as the country's main opposition, it should have at least 10 seats.

One of its leaders complained that the government wanted to create an uncongenial atmosphere in parliament, to discourage the opposition from attending.

That has certainly been the pattern of behaviour in Bangladesh in the past.

The party in opposition has always staged walkouts and boycotts - preferring to voice its protest against the government in the streets rather than in the chamber.

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