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Mayoral polls boycotted in Bangladesh

Mayoral elections in Bangladesh's two largest cities have been boycotted by the opposition BNP nationalist party. Complaints of widespread rigging have been played down by the nation's electoral commission.

The opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted elections in Dhaka and Chittagong on Tuesday. It pulled out four hours into voting, claiming that there had been widespread rigging.

Tuesday's polls for which 6 million people were eligible had been seen as a key test for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (pictured above) and her center-left ruling Awami League party.

Senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed accused Hasina's party of "capturing polling centers" and voting for their own candidates. Turnout was barely 5 percent, Ahmed claimed.

Awami League party leader Mahbubul Hanif accused the BNP of "pre-planning" its boycott to mask anticipated defeat and "create an issue for a fresh movement."

Electoral commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman said he had not heard any complaints by candidates about rigging.

'Widespread' rigging

The US embassy in Dhaka urged Bangladesh's government to investigate what it called "widespread, first-hand and credible reports of vote-rigging," and intimidation.

In Bangladesh has a long history of political violence and rivalry between the league's Hasina and BNP leader Khaleda Zia. They have alternated as prime minister over most of the past two decades.

Since early this year, scores of people have been killed political violence.

Hasina won a national election in January last year. Since then, her government has cracked down on dissent.

ipj/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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