Bangladesh's two former prime ministers -- Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina competing for power, ended their whirlwind campaigns Saturday night by making lofty pledges to woo voters ahead of the Dec. 29 Parliament elections.
Both female leaders, who rotated in power since 1991, made similar pledges to cut down food prices, curb corruption and terrorism, eradicate poverty and illiteracy in this impoverished country in South Asia.
Khaleda Zia, chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party who ruled the country from 1991 to 1996 and 2001 to 2006, in an address to the nation over the state controlled radio and television pledged to give subsidy to agriculture to increase food production and set up new industries to create new jobs.
She pledged to combat terrorism and militancy and stop politics of strike and road blockade to ensure national development. She also called for national unity and make the future Parliament effective to resolve national issues.
Her arch rival Sheikh Hasina, president of Awami League who ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, in a similar address to the nation Saturday night promised to attain self-sufficiency in food and generate 7,000 MW of electricity from present 3,500 MW in next five years for rapid development and economic growth.
Hasina pledged to provide subsidy to agriculture sector to increase food production, introduce rationing system for poor workers and stabilize prices of essential commodities.
She pledged to bring down poverty level from 45 percent to 25 percent, unemployment rate from 40 percent to 15 percent and give job to at least one unemployed male or female from each family.
The Awami League president said if voted to power her government will expand apparel industry, revive jute and tea industries and create investment-friendly climate to attract foreign investment.
Both leaders in their speeches also focused on women and young voters and sought their support. They pledged to build a modern Bangladesh based on science and technological development.
Khaleda leads a 4-party alliance. Hasina leads a grand alliance that include former President H. M Ershad's Jatiya Party.
More than 81 million voters are expected to join the polls to elect 299 parliament members out of 300 and establish an elected government. Vote in one seat will be held on Jan. 12 next year as one candidate died.
The Election Commission has imposed ban on conducting election campaign from Saturday midnight. This ban will remain in force 48 hours after the elections. The Commission also imposed restriction on plying of taxicabs, microbuses, jeeps, cars, buses, trucks and all mechanized boats from Sunday midnight to Monday midnight to control law and order.
Cars of journalists, local and foreign election observers and officials involved in election duties, security forces, ambulances and vehicles engaged in electricity, gas, telephone and postal services were exempted.
Around 50,000 troops alongside police and other law enforcers have been deployed to ensure peaceful voting, counting and announcement of the election results.
The 9th Parliamentary elections was scheduled to be held on Jan.22, 2007. Due to the differences between BNP and Awami League over election issues, the political situation deteriorated. President Iajuddin Ahmed on Jan. 11 2007 had to declare state of emergency and postponed the elections.
The new caretaker government headed by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed took office on Jan. 12, 2007 and ruled the country since then.