Bangladesh has lifted a state of emergency ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for December 29th.
The order, signed by President Iajuddin Ahmed, went into effect at the stroke of midnight, early morning Wednesday. This ends nearly two years of restrictions on political activity, civil rights and press freedom. It also allows political parties to campaign freely for the polls, designed to return Bangladesh to democratic rule.
The country's two main political parties -- the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the Awami League of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina -- welcomed the move. Bangladesh had been under the state of emergency since January 2007, when the military intervened to end months of political violence.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today's move, calling it a positive step toward ensuring free, fair and credible elections. In a statement, Mr. Ban called on the country's political parties to help Bangladesh achieve what he called its "full potential for democratic development."
US Ambassador in Bangladesh James Moriarty welcomed the move.