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Bangladesh: Opposition holds massive rally

Bangladesh opposition party holds massive rally, calling for the government to step down and hold elections.

Bangladesh nationalist party rally march 2012Enlarge
A supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) shout slogans as he attends a rally organised by the BNP and allies in Dhaka on March 12, 2012. Thousands of Bangladeshi troops patrolled the streets of Dhaka as opposition parties prepared for a mass protest calling for the government to step down and hold elections. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The streets of Dhaka were clogged with tens of thousands of protesters calling for the government to step down and hold elections, according to Al Jazeera.

The demonstration, led by the government's main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was the largest since the party lost by a landslide in 2008.

The BNP and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, were demanding the restoration of a provision that would require incumbent governments to transfer power to a neutral caretaker administration while elections were being held, according to Al Jazeera. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government dismissed the system which had been in place for 15 years last year.

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According to the BBC, over 100,000 people took part in the protest and schools and businesses were closed. The BNP claimed that hundreds of its members were arrested before the protests began.

Opposition leader Khaleda Zia said they would stage a nationwide general strikes on March 29, increasing protests if a caretaker government was not put in place by June. "We will announce a series of protests across the country if the government fails to accept our demand," Zia told the crowds.

Bangladesh's democracy has been plagued by military coups since its independence from Pakistan in 1971. The current government, formed by the Awami League, was elected in the last month of 2008, when Hasina defeated long-time rival Zia. Both women have served as prime ministers at different points in Bangladesh's history and have spent time in detention, according to the Guardian.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120312/bangladesh-opposition-holds-massive-rally