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Stage readied for Bangladesh polls
Now it is official, opposition parties in Bangladesh will fight the forthcoming general elections under the banner of Jatiya Oikya Jote (national united front).

It means unlike the last national polls, the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) will have to fight in a rough turf to succeed in the electoral battle scheduled for 23 December next.

It may be noted that over 20 opposition parties including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have resolved that it would participate in the polls. After a meeting in Dhaka on Sunday, the united front declared that they would participate in the electoral exercise 'to rescue democracy' in Bangladesh.

The ruling AL, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, would seek mandate from nearly 104 million electorate for a third successive term. However it would not be an easy task for her this time as their candidates would be challenged by respective opponents.  Unlike last time,  when the BNP boycotted the polls, the ruling AL nominees would have to face opponents, not to think of winning 150 seats uncontested to the 350 member Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament).

In fact, after days of speculations, the Bangladesh chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda announced the election date to form its 11th Jatiya Sangsad since its independence in 1971. The election commission decided to engage around 700,000 officials to supervise the exercise through 40,000 polling stations across the populous country, which would be guarded by 600,000 men in uniforms.

Unlike its largest democratic neighbor, Bangladesh does not have an upper house  of Parliament (Rajya Sabha of India).  Their electorate send 300 representatives to Jatiya Sangsad through the battle of ballots (with limited use of electronic voting machines), where additional 50 would be chosen by the elected nominees of various parties of the south Asian country.

The main opposition party, whose supreme leader (also former Bangladesh Premier) Begum Khaleda Zia remains behind bars for many weeks under various corruption charges, maintains the demand for her urgent release and also  a neutral election-time (caretaker) government in Dhaka to run essential affairs. But the hardliner Premier rejected it. The daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman however assured that the election commission  would be given appropriate power to conduct the polls in a free and fair manner.

Meanwhile, the Hasina government has stepped up its all-round initiatives for peaceful polls. Different Bangla law enforcement agencies are being put on high alert to prevent any untoward incidents in the coming days. The government agencies suspect that few elements in opposition camp, terrorists, underworld criminals and anti-liberation forces may create troubles in the country during the polls. Meanwhile, special drives were conducted across the country to seize the illegal arms by the concerned authorities.

Exiled Bangla writer  Taslima Nasreen, while expressing anguishes over recent arrests of  many distinguished personalities including reputed photographer Shahidul Alam under the digital security laws, has made it clear that she still prefers Ms Hasina over Begum Zia (allied with Jamaat-e-Islami) to rule her country. However she admitted that the faith and respect many progressive individuals across the globe had for Ms Hasina is slowly dwindling.

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