Elections postponed in Bangladesh crisis

January 12, 2007|By Nurul Alam and Laura King | Nurul Alam and Laura King,Los Angeles Times

CHITTAGONG, BANGLADESH -- After weeks of mounting political violence, Bangladesh's president declared a nationwide state of emergency yesterday and indefinitely postponed elections that had been scheduled to take place in less than two weeks.

President Iajuddin Ahmed also said he would step down as interim head of a caretaker administration in the impoverished South Asian nation but would retain the largely ceremonial post of president.

No new date was set for nationwide balloting that had been scheduled to take place Jan. 22.

"It is not possible to hold the elections on schedule," Ahmed said on national television.

He said the delay was meant to help ensure that a vote, when held, would be "free, fair and credible."

The emergency declaration gives wide-ranging powers to the police and military, suspending many fundamental citizens' rights.

A nighttime curfew was declared in the capital, Dhaka, and dozens of other cities nationwide. Private broadcasting outlets were ordered to suspend independent newscasts and relay only information provided by state-run television.

Ahmed, whose caretaker administration was supposed to have overseen the elections, said he would temporarily hand over responsibility to an aide, Fazlul Haque.

Nurul Alam and Laura King write for the Los Angeles Times.

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