DHAKA: Another major Bangladesh political party Tuesday announced a boycott of the upcoming general election, declaring the country was on the “brink of disaster” as seven more people were killed in poll protests.
Former dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad said his Jatiya Party, the country’s third largest and a key ally of the ruling Awami League, would not contest the January 5 elections, following in the footsteps of the opposition alliance.
“Since all parties are not contesting, so the Jatiya Party will also not participate in the polls,” Ershad told reporters, adding that a “proper environment” was absent for the elections.
“I am not going to contest the election. The country is at the brink of disaster. We’re heading towards uncertainty,” Ershad added.
The announcement came as fresh violence erupted across the country between police and bomb-throwing opposition supporters over the elections, leaving another seven people dead.
Police said Tuesday they opened fire on opposition activists during fierce clashes in the southern district of Satkhira and the central district of Chandpur, after some of the protesters blocked a main road with logs in Satkhira.
“They attacked officers with crude bombs and guns as we tried to clear the logs after Monday midnight,” the district’s police chief Molla Jahangir Hossain told AFP. “We responded by firing rifles. Later we learnt that two protesters were killed,” he said.
In Chandpur police fired shotguns at about 300 opposition supporters, who attacked them with home-made bombs and rocks, local police chief Amir Jafar told AFP.
“Two people including a protester were killed,” he added.
Another two people were killed during protests in the port city of Chittagong while a burns victim succumbed to his injuries in the capital.
At least 59 people have now died in street violence since late October, when the opposition launched a series of protests, strikes and transport blockades.
It is trying to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to quit to make way for a neutral administration to oversee the polls, as happened in past elections.
The United States urged protesters to halt the “senseless violence” and called on rival political parties to hold talks to resolve the crisis and pave the way for “free and fair elections”.
“The senseless violence of past days is especially reprehensible as it intentionally targeted innocent people with bombs and by burning them alive in vehicles,” the US embassy in Dhaka said on Tuesday.
” … we believe that it is now more urgent than ever for both major parties to empower trusted lieutenants to undertake constructive dialogue to find a way forward to hold free and fair elections that are credible in the eyes of the Bangladeshi people,” it added.
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its Islamist allies announced a boycott of the elections on Monday, declaring that they would be rigged with Hasina still in charge.
Hasina has refused to resign and has instead formed an interim multi-party cabinet which includes her allies.