Bangladesh election may cause more chaos

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 7:36 p.m.

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The run-up to Sunday's general election in Bangladesh has been marked by bloody street clashes and caustic political vendettas, and the vote threatens to plunge this South Asian country even deeper into crisis.

The opposition and its allies are boycotting the vote, a move that undermines the legitimacy of the election and makes it unlikely that the polls will stem a wave of political violence that killed at least 275 people in 2013.

Much of the capital, Dhaka, has been cut off from the rest of the country in recent weeks, as the opposition has pressed its demands through general strikes and transportation blockades.

Civilians have been caught up in the bloodshed, with activists torching vehicles belonging to motorists who defy the strikes, leading to a growing sense of desperation over the political impasse.

As many as 50 schools and other facilities to be used as polling stations have been burned since Friday, TV reports said.

“I want to go to vote, but I am afraid of violence,” said Hazera Begum, a teacher in Dhaka. “If the situation is normal and my neighbors go, I may go.”

The chaos could exacerbate economic woes in this deeply impoverished country of 160 million and lead to radicalization in a strategic pocket of South Asia, analysts say.

The opposition demands that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down and appoint a neutral caretaker administration to oversee the election.

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