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Violence Erupts in Bangladesh During Opposition Protests

Police and protesters have clashed in the Bangladeshi capital, as thousands marched to demand electoral reforms before the next elections. Dozens were injured. The demonstrations in Dhaka were held to coincide with a 36-hour general strike called by the opposition, which charges that the ruling coalition is trying to manipulate the outcome of the January polls.

Police fired tear gas and made baton charges at crowds of angry protesters, some of whom threw stones at security forces. Police had tried to prevent the hundreds who had gathered from marching on the center of town.

It is the second time in three days that violence has erupted on the streets of Dhaka. On Sunday, at least 100 people were injured in clashes with security forces that also took place during protests to demand electoral reform.

The Awami League heads a coalition of 14 opposition parties that are behind the protests. They say the government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is trying to manipulate the results of parliamentary elections due in January, and they want electoral reform measures to ensure that does not happen.

They are calling for the removal of the election commissioner and his deputies, whom they charge are pro-government.

The opposition also wants a say in who heads the interim administration that will run the country between the end of Ms. Khaleda's term in October and the January polls.

"We have demanded to have a free and fair election, under a neutral caretaker government," said Abdul Jalil, the Awami League general secretary.

The opposition coalition has threatened to continue holding demonstrations and holding strikes until their demands are met.

Away from the protests, Dhaka was at a virtual stand-still, with residents observing a 36-hour strike called by the opposition, running from dawn Tuesday until sundown Wednesday. Bus stations were empty, as strikers kept all vehicles, except bicycle-rickshaws, off the streets.