Bangladesh will hold parliamentary elections on January 7, its Election Commission has announced, as deadly protests by opposition parties demanding the prime minister’s resignation have rocked the country.
“The 12th parliamentary election will be held on January 7 in 300 seats,” Chief Election Commissioner Habibul Awal said on Wednesday in a live television broadcast, urging parties to hold talks to resolve the political crisis.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), whose top leaders are either jailed or in exile, has already said it will boycott the polls if Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not resign and transfer power to a non-partisan caretaker government to oversee the general election.
Hasina has led Bangladesh for the past 15 years and has been accused of ruling with an iron fist. She is seen as almost certain to return to power for a fourth time if the opposition boycott goes ahead.
Hasina’s main rival and two-time premier, BNP leader Khaleda Zia, is effectively under house arrest for what her party calls trumped-up corruption charges.
The BNP boycotted the 2014 elections, but participated in 2018. Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in the Muslim-majority country, and the Islami Andolon Bangladesh (IAB) party also said they would spurn the polls.