Hasina, allies race to a landslide victory in Bangladesh (Lead)

December 30th, 2008 - 9:33 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 30 (IANS) Former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her nine-party alliance raced to a landslide victory, winning 225 seats of the 299 seats that figured in Bangladesh’s ninth general election held Monday. This meant a searing defeating for Hasina’s arch political rival and two-term prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, and her Islamist allies who together enjoyed a two-thirds majority in the last elected parliament (2001-06).

While Zia won in all the seats, her chief ally, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ameer (chief), Motiur Rahman Nizami, scraped through with a narrow margin after trailing for long.

But the loss of over a dozen seats by the JeI could be an indicator that the people of Bangladesh had rejected religious extremism preached by him and others of the Islami Oikya Jote (Islamist alliance).

This was a signal to the world community, political analysts said, that has serious concerns about the spread of terrorism in the name of religion in South Asia.

While Hasina counselled calm as results poured in, Zia complained of irregularities in the Monday poll, hinting at rigging.

Both the women contenders, as also the caretaker government and the Election Commission tasked to conduct a free and fair poll, had Monday expressed satisfaction.

“No matter whatever the outcome of the result is, the question is if it is held in a free and fair manner,” the chief of the four-party alliance had said Monday. International observers, among them the European Union (EU), also testified to a fair poll that saw an estimated 70 percent turnout of the 80 million electorate.

The results made available at the daybreak by the Election Commission showed Hasina’s Awami League winning 202 seats and her ally, Jatiya Party of former military ruler Hossain Mohammed Ershad, winning 23 seats.

All three — Hasina and Ershad, as also Zia, scored stunning victories in the multiple constituencies they contested.

Zia’s BNP had won 26, JeI one and one more seat went to an ally. There were three independents.

A major BNP loss was that of the speaker of the last elected Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly), Barrister Jamiruddin Serker, who lost in Pachagarh-1 in northern Bangladesh.

The AL victory spelt triumph for a number of minority Hindu nominees. Among them were Suranjit Sengupta (Sunamganj-1), a member of AL Presidium, Narayan Chandra Chanda (Khulna-5), Ramesh Chandra Sen (Thakurgaon-1) and Monoranjan Gopal Sheel (Dinajpur-1).

The results indicated that the BNP had secured most of its seats from urban areas, including seven from Dhaka, bedsides Chittagong port town.

Hasina’s alliance had scored both in urban and rural areas. Among her major losers was Matia Chowdhury, a presidium member.

Among the winners were two former army officers who fought for the country’s freedom from Pakistan.

Major (rtd) Rafiqul Islam, winner of top gallantary award Bir Uttam, won from Chandpur-5, while Col. (retd) Oli Ahmed, a minister in Zia Government who fell out with her, won from Chittagong 13.

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