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UN calls for peaceful polls in Bangladesh

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s deadly election campaign entered a final full day on Thursday amid international concern over events, UN Secretary-General appealed for calm.

Both sides launched new salvos in their war of words ahead of Sunday’s polling.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused the opposition of organizing bomb attacks while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said: “the state” was aiding an assault on the opposition.

At least six people — four from the BNP and two from the Awami League — have been killed since the campaign started on Nov 8. The BNP and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami say more than 11,500 of their followers have been arrested and thousands of activists, including candidates, injured in attacks by ruling party followers.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “calls on all stakeholders to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion before, during and after the elections, so as to enable a peaceful, credible and inclusive poll”, said a spokesman.

Bangladeshis “must feel safe and confident in exercising their right to vote. Civil society and electoral observers should be fully supported to play their role in the process”, the UN leader added through his spokesman.

Sheikh Hasina, seeking a third straight term and a record fourth in all, has shrugged off opposition complaints of authoritarianism and said she needs more time to implement her ambitious economic plans.

Hasina focused a speech broadcast by video late Wednesday to supporters in Dha­ka on the impressive economic growth of the past decade.

But since her last victory, civil society and rights groups have accused Hasina’s government of silencing dissent and muzzling the press.


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