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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2008

New vote held with old names on ballot

December 28, 2008

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— Bangladeshis head to the polls Monday for the first time in seven years but the two top candidates are former prime ministers charged with corruption and many voters say they fear the election won’t bring the reform this impoverished country desperately needs.

The election — the first since 2001 — is seen as crucial to restoring democracy in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which has a history of military rule and political unrest.

Vying for the top post of prime minister are Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina — archrivals who have traded power back and forth for 15 years in successive governments marked by corruption, mismanagement, and paralyzing protests.

Zia was first elected prime minister in 1991, Hasina in 1996, and Zia again in 2001. During the 15 years of swapped rule, a well-worn pattern emerged: one party wins the election, and the other spends the term leading strikes and protests to make the country ungovernable.

No reliable polls have been conducted, and some fear instability will follow the vote.

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