Dhaka, Nov 9 (PTI) Bangladesh's Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal on Thursday said that his office was determined to hold the general elections within the constitutional deadline amid a street campaign by the opposition parties demanding a non-party interim government to conduct the polls scheduled in early January.
"We have to hold the election before the deadline, January 29," Awal told reporters after a meeting with President Mohammad Shahabuddin at the presidential palace.
"We have an obligation to hold elections within the specified time (and) we will announce the schedule soon," he added.
His comments came amid mounting political tensions as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its far-right allies like the Jamaat-e-Islami have waged a street campaign demanding the resignation of the Awami League government to allow a non-party interim government to conduct the general elections.
The political violence has claimed at least five lives.
Police said suspected BNP activists set on fire dozens of buses and trucks since the beginning of the street protests last month.
Police arrested several senior opposition leaders including BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir along with several hundred activists in the past two weeks on charges of instigating violence and sabotages.
The party of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia last week enforced a nationwide general strike and with a weekend pause called for a countrywide transport blockade, prompting operators to halt inter district bus services.
The ruling Awami League has declined to accept the demand, saying elections would be held under the incumbent premier Sheikh Hasina, who also rejected proposals for dialogue with the opposition by the US and other major Western countries, calling BNP a terrorist organisation.
The EC chief came up with his announcement in an apparent reversal of his last month’s stance when he had said his office was yet to witness the expected “favourable environment” for scheduled early January polls.
"We want to organise the election. As the organiser, we would like to say, the favourable environment we were expecting has not been achieved yet,” Awal said.
Awal said the commission informed the President about its preparedness for holding the polls.
The President expected the Election Commission to play a "responsible role with courage and sincerity" to make the next general election fair by following the constitutional rules and norms, his office said.
He, however, said that it was not possible for the commission alone to conduct a fair election and asked the executive branch of the state to assist the electoral body to accomplish the task. PTI AR ZH ZH