Bangladesh's 38 million voters will take what is seen as the first step back to democracy, after three years of military rule, when they vote on Saturday (3 June) on their future form of government.
Bangladesh's 38 million voters will take what is seen as the first step back to democracy, after three years of military rule, when they vote on Saturday (3 June) on their future form of government. The Presidential elections will decide if the country is to be ruled by a presidential or parliamentary system. The country's military ruler, Major-General Ziaur Rahman is pledged to introduce a presidential form of government if he wins and his main election rival, the retired General Ataul Ghani Osmany says he will restore parliamentary government if he wins the election. Both men gave their last major election addresses in Dacca earlier in the week (30 & 31 May).
SYNOPSIS: A crowd of more than 50,000 turned out in the Bangladesh capital of Dacca on Tuesday (30 May) to hear General Zia's speech. The 43-year-old soldier, who has led the country with the aid of martial law since November 1975, is contesting the election with the support of a six-party political alliance calling itself the Jatiyatabadi Front or National Front.
President Zia, has said Bangladesh cannot afford the luxury of a British-type parliamentary government. He has often accused his main rival of playing into the hands of the elements who helped Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's father-figure president, to introduce totalitarian rule, brushing aside the mandate given him, when his Awami League Party won a sweeping majority in the 1970 elections, in the former Pakistan.
It was under a portrait of Sheikh Mujib that General Osmany held his rally in the same part of Dacca on Wednesday (31 May).
There was a similar size crowd to listen to General Osmany, who led the Bangladesh forces during the liberation struggle and subsequently became the Minister of Defence, in the civilian government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The main force behind General Osmany's election campaign is the old Awami League.
The retired General has accused President Zia of "trying to perpetuate a one-man rule" by introducing a presidential style of government. Observers say the main thrust of General Osmany's accusation is that President Zia amended the Army Act recently to dabble in politics, while still continuing in active military service. The amendment qualifies President Zia to retain his army post as the Commander-in Chief. General Osmany has also expressed doubt on whether powers would be transferred to him if he won .
However political observers say the chances of an opposition victory are slim, and they believe President Zia will win easily.