Bangladesh begins poll campaigning amid opposition claims of arrests

Dhaka:Election campaigning in Bangladesh began on Monday amid reports of arrests of hundreds of leaders and members of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The country will hold general elections on December 30, pitting the BNP against the ruling Awami League.

“BNP leaders and activists cannot stay in their house, everyday the police is arresting our leaders and party activists. It has become even difficult for us to keep the numbers. Many of our candidates are still in jail,” Taiful Islam Tipu, assistant office secretary of BNP, told Efe news.

Tipu said that a fair election was not possible as the Awami League had been campaigning every day despite Monday being the official start of the campaign period.

“They broke all electoral rules but no action was taken against them,” he said.

Denying the allegations, Awami League Joint Secretary General Mahbubul Alam Hanif said: “The election environment is good. People are expecting that the election will be held in a festive atmosphere (…) all political parties are contesting.”

The BNP and its allies boycotted the 2014 elections after the Awami League abolished the “caretaker government system” which required general elections to be overseen by non-partisan governments.

The Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party will contest under the umbrella of the BNP after a court cancelled its registration.

BNP Secretary General, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, will lead the campaign after Khaleda was sentenced to 17 years in two corruption cases.

The Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has allied itself with the Jatiya Party, led by former military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad.