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Bangladesh to hold elections in December

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DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Bangladesh will hold parliamentary elections on Dec. 23, a senior official announced on Thursday, but an ongoing dispute between political blocs means it is unclear whether the opposition will take part.

In a televised address to the nation, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda called upon all parties to take part in the polls in the politically volatile South Asian country.

The previous elections in 2014 were boycotted by the opposition and marred by violence.

The announcement came after a week-long, inconclusive dialogue between the ruling Awami League-led coalition of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the opposition alliance led by former foreign minister Kamal Hossain.

The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia, forged the alliance with Hossain's Gono Forum party to put the government under pressure.

They have issued several demands, including the release of Zia and the formation of a neutral caretaker administration to oversee credible elections.

Zia has been in prison since February after a court sentenced her to five years in jail -- which was later doubled to 10 years -- for misappropriation of funds intended for an orphanage.

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There are more than 100 million registered voters in Bangladesh. Voters will choose representatives for 300 parliamentary seats.

The commission set Nov. 19 as the deadline for nominations to be submitted, Nov. 22 for candidates to be scrutinized and Nov. 29 as a deadline for withdrawal of candidature, leaving nearly a month for campaigning.

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