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Ershad Claims Victory in Referendum

March 22, 1985

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Officials claimed a victory Friday for President Hussain Mohammad Ershad, announcing that a referendum on continued military rule was approved overwhelmingly by voters.

Critics contended the election had been rigged.

According to official figures from 86 percent of the 22,984 polling places, 72 percent of the eligible voters participated in the referendum Thursday, officials said.

The official count in those voting districts indicated Ershad - who seized power three years ago - received the approval of almost 28 million voters. There were almost 1.6 million votes against Ershad’s policies, according to the totals.

Police said vandals threw a bomb at a polling station near Dhaka, the capital, killing a guard. Eleven other people were injured, but sources at Dhaka Medical College said none of te injuries were serious. Police arrested four people in connection with the bombings.

Bombs exploded in four other cities in this impoverished country of 100 million people. No injuries were reported in the blasts in Chittagong, Faridpur, Pabna and Sirajganj.

Ershad called the referendum earlier this year after he canceled parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for April 6. Opponents of the government had refused to participate in the elections unless Ershad turned power over to a caretaker government before the election.

The opposition called for a boycott of the referendum and vowed to continue its push for an end to military rule.

Rashid Khan Menon, a spokesman for one opposition coalition, on Thursday dismissed the referendum as a ″farce.″ He claimed no more than 5 percent of the 48 million eligible voters participated, and that his alliance knew ″the autocratic rulers would announce the results using preplanned statistics.″

Ershad, who took power in a bloodless coup three years ago, told reporters he would be willing to discuss the transition to civilian rule with the dissidents after the referendum.

Ershad postponed the parliamentary elections twice before he canceled the April 6 vote and called the referendum. No new date has been set for parliamentary elections.

Prior to the referendum, he reimposed martial law regulations, banned political activity, and reintroduced military courts. He put opposition leaders Begum Khaleda Zia and Hasina Wajed in protective custody, and most other opposition leaders went underground.

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