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Bangladesh voters' lists 'ready'

22 July 08 13:28 GMT
By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

Bangladesh's Election Commission says it has completed the registration of voters ahead of a general election due to be held at the end of December.

It says it has recorded the identities, fingerprints and photographs of more than 80 million voters to ensure that the elections will be free and fair.

The completion of the new voters' lists is a huge achievement for Bangladesh's caretaker government.

It has promised to reform corrupt institutions and hold free elections.

The government came to power a year and a half ago, after the last elections were cancelled following months of street violence.

Painstaking

The opposition claimed that the electoral register at the time contained the names of millions of fake voters.

So the caretakers and their backers in the army and international community decided to tear it up and start all over again.

The Election Commission now claims that the new register is the most accurate in Bangladesh's history.

Military units have painstakingly recorded information on more than 80 million people.

This means that the new voters list has about 13 million fewer names on it than the last, discredited one.

The Election Commission also says that new identity cards, which will soon be printed, will make it harder for people to vote twice.

The whole process has cost $80m.

In itself, however, this new register will not guarantee a credible election.

There are still doubts over the participation of the main parties, dozens of whose leaders have been jailed for corruption.

Also, the interim government still governs by emergency rule, with the firm backing of the army.

But it says that restrictions on political activities will be lifted before campaigning begins.

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