Haroon Habib

DHAKA: Bangladesh's Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice M.A. Aziz, whose removal was the major Opposition demand for ensuring a free, fair and credible election, has decided to go on long leave.

The decision of the controversial CEC, who was under mounting pressure to quit from all political parties except the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of the former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, and its ally the Jamaat-e-Islami, came on Wednesday night at the end of a nationwide blockade enforced by a combine of 14 Opposition parties led by the Awami League of Sheikh Hasina.

Information Adviser Mahbubul Alam told journalists outside the Presidential House Bangabhaban after a council of advisers meeting that the CEC had "verbally communicated" his decision to the President and caretaker government head, Iajuddin Ahmed.

The President will appoint two new election commissioners, including one to head the Commission temporarily.

Politically appointed

It was not immediately known whether Mr. Aziz would leave the country.

The political parties demanding Election Commission reforms have not yet reacted fully to the development.

However, some of them welcomed the decision but said they also demanded the removal of other "politicised" Election Commissioners and the politically appointed EC secretary.

Mr. Aziz, who held out despite widespread national agitation against his "partisan role" in favour of Khaleda Zia's former ruling alliance, gave way in the face of blockades that brought the country to a standstill.

With this, the pro-fair election movement received its second significant success. Earlier, demonstrators forced the former Chief Justice of Bangladesh, K.M. Hasan, to declare his "inability" to head the caretaker government, although he was allegedly chosen by the Khaleda Zia Government.

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