Dhaka: A record 151 candidates are set to be elected unopposed to the 300-seat parliament in Bangladesh following main opposition BNP`s boycott of the January 5 general elections.
"So far the number is 151, but it could rise as we still await latest reports from returning officers in several areas and the number could rise," an Election Commission spokesman told.
The official said the number of candidates elected unopposed would set a record in the country`s election history. A total of 49 people won without contest during the controversial polls in 1996, which was boycotted by the then main opposition Awami League led by incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The number of candidates in the remaining 149 seats is also an all-time low.
According to the poll panel`s list 127 candidates set to be declared unopposed belongs to Awami League, 18 are of Jatiya Party, three from Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, two from Workers Party and one from Jatiya Party (Manju).
All the parties are members in the Awami League-led grand alliance. Though the Jatiya Party led by former president H M Ershad was visibly split in two camps over joining the polls.
Ershad had announced to boycott the polls due to lack of a proper atmosphere. His decision came days after the BNP and its rightwing allies did not file nominations for the polls, sticking to their stance of boycotting the election over the failure to form a neutral interim government.
The Awami League and BNP are at loggerheads over the system for conducting the polls. Hasina has formed a multi party interim set up to oversee the polls while the BNP wants elections under a non party interim government.
The election commission said it was set to go ahead with the election plans as the lack of contestants in most of the seats did not create any legal crisis to stall the polls.
"The situation caused no legal complications for halting the polls," Election Commissioner Abu Hafiz said.
The development came despite the UN brokered talks between the Awami League and the BNP.
"The talks are continuing, we laid out our issues and demands and they (Awami League) also placed their issues and expectations," BNP`s highest policy making standing committee member Khondker Mosharraf Hossain told newsmen yesterday.
The Awami League`s joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif also echoed him. Both the sides, however, declined to elaborate about the progress in ending the political deadlock.
"We are discussing a wide range of issues related to the elections...But the January 5 election must be held for continuation of the constitutional process, if needed discarding BNP," a source familiar with the talks told PTI.
Hasina yesterday said BNP has already missed the election train with the expiry of the deadline for filing nomination papers.