DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh's army-backed government Saturday said December 18 elections set to return democracy to the nation would be delayed after ex-premier Khaleda Zia's party threatened to boycott the polls. Chief election commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda said the landmark polls, which would be the first in the impoverished and emergency-ruled nation in seven years, would be moved from December 18 to later in the month. "Yes, the election is not going to be held on December 18. We will announce the new schedule tomorrow. The new date could be December 27, 28 or 29," he said. The move is seen as a compromise to ensure the polls are perceived as credible and that all major political parties participate. It comes after a four-party Islamic alliance, led by Zia's powerful Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), demanded the delay before they would take part. The BNP-led alliance won a two-thirds majority in the last elections held in 2001. The right-of-centre parties also wanted the interim authorities to lift the state of emergency imposed by the current regime when they took control of the country in January 2007. Since the BNP made its demands almost a week ago, government ministers have been ferrying between talks with that party and its major rival, the Awami League, to try and resolve the standoff. In the last two days, the election commission also held talks with the two parties to reach a consensus on a new date. After the talks with the chief election commissioner, Awami League spokesman Syed Ashraful Islam said it was committed to December 18 and they were reluctant for a delay. He said the Awami League would announce its position tomorrow. Earlier, with no consensus reached, the government said on Wednesday it would stick to its original plan and there would be no delay. But 24 hours later the BNP said it would take part if the date was moved to December 28 and the emergency lifted, prompting ministers to begin talks with both sides again. "I clearly say that we will take part in elections on December 28 to restore democracy and to establish the basic rights of the people," said BNP leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia late Thursday. She also urged the government to defer nationwide district council polls by at least a month from December 28 and said the army should stay out of the political process. The government, which came to power after a row over election fraud between the BNP and the Awami League led to widespread unrest, has promised to restore democracy by the end of the year. Over the past two years the government has pushed through key electoral and political reforms, including a crackdown on corruption, which saw both Zia and Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed detained for a year on graft charges. Both women have been released on bail in deals with the government to ensure they take part in the elections.