DHAKA, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's finance minister said on Wednesday an election could be held on Dec. 27.
"The Election Commission will decide the date but I heard the commission wants to hold the election on Dec. 27," Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told reporters.
The commission said last week the election could be held at the end of December. It was not immediately possible to reach the commission chief late on Wednesday for comment.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by former premier Khaleda Zia, has said it will not contest the election while its leader is in jail.
In February, a court handed Khaleda, a two-term prime minister with whom Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shares a long and bitter rivalry, a five-year sentence for corruption - charges that she says are part of a plot to keep her and her family out of politics.
"The election will be fair but if the BNP fails to participate, the party will become extinct," Muhith said.
Hasina won the 2014 election, to serve a second five-year term, after Khaleda boycotted those polls in protest at the scrapping of the practice of installing a neutral caretaker government in the run-up to the vote.
Muhith said a small cabinet, led by Hasina, would be formed in place of the existing one within the next 20 days but parliament would not be dissolved.
The government has been shaken by protests by tens of thousands of students in the past weeks.
What began as an outpouring of anger over the failings of an unregulated transport industry after a speeding bus killed two students in Dhaka, quickly escalated into the widest anti-government protests in the South Asian nation in years.
The government has blamed the BNP for inciting the students. The BNP says it was not involved in starting the protests, but is looking to capitalise on them with rallies across the country aimed at pressuring the government to release its leader. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Alison Williams)
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