Bangladesh’s ninth parliament will have record 64 women

December 31st, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 31 (IANS) Bangladesh, where politics is dominated by two former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia, will see a record 64 women sitting in its ninth Jatiya Sangsad (national assembly).For the first time, 19 women contesting for 23 parliamentary seats defeated their rivals by huge margins in the election that saw the Hasina-led alliance winning three-fourths of the 299 seats.

They will be joined by 45 women nominated to the assembly as per a provision in the constitution. Generally, they are from the ruling alliance, boosting their majority.

In all, 60 women had contested for 65 constituencies, many of them pitted against each other, the New Age newspaper reported Wednesday.

But the figure of 19 is elusive in that Hasina, Zia and Rowshan Ershad, a former first lady, contested from more three constituencies each. Hasina and Zia won all the three seats, while Rowshan lost in two.

Multiple contests by major leaders aiming to consolidate their hold in areas adjoining their constituencies is the norm in Bangladesh. Both Zia and Hasina contested five seats in the past.

This time, however, the Election Commission restricted this to three seats as part of the poll reforms.

Women voters constitute a little over a half of the total voters, but their representation in the parliament is not proportionate to the number of female voters. Of the total 81 million voters, 41 million are women.

The success of the Awami League’s women contestants is expectedly higher with 14 of its women leaders winning in 16 seats.

Besides Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) women winners are Hasina Ahmed and Romana Mahmud. Among Hasina’s senior party colleagues who won are Syeda Sajeda Choudhury and Matia Choudhury.

Forty-six women candidates had taken part in the fifth parliamentary polls held in February 1991 but only four came out victorious.

In the 1996 parliamentary elections, only five candidates won in 11 seats, which included five by Zia and four by Hasina.

In the 2001 poll, the 13 winners out of 41 women contestants included Hasina and Zia who won five seats each.

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