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Bangladesh relaxes emergency, allows poll campaigning


Dhaka : Authorities in Bangladesh Monday announced further relaxation of a state of emergency to allow campaigning for parliamentary and local polls.

The government also decided to withdraw troops from the field, nearly 22 months after they were deployed as part of a declaration of a state of emergency, an adviser to the military-backed interim administration told reporters.

Under the relaxed emergency rule, political parties will now be allowed to hold rallies, processions and election campaigns for the Dec 18 parliamentary polls and the Dec 28 local government elections.

The government’s decision came a day after the election commission formally announced schedules for the country’s stalled parliamentary polls.

“A proposal has been sent to the president seeking withdrawal of the troops from the grassroots,” the home affairs adviser, M.A. Matin told reporters in the evening.

The military-backed interim administration of Fakhruddin Ahmed called in the troops on Jan 19, 2007 to help manage the state of emergency called eight days earlier in the wake of political tension and street violence. Civil and political rights have been curtailed while the state of emergency has been in effect.

In June, the government allowed limited political campaigning in four city corporation elections scheduled for August. It also allowed political parties to hold indoor meetings at that time.

Both major political parties have called for total cessation of emergency rule and have started electoral preparation for the polls. The Awami League welcomed the election schedule. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party said it would observe the situation.

In a September address to the nation, Ahmed assured the nation that his government would allow campaigning and guarantee voter security.