Awami League, allies lead in Bangladesh polls (Lead)

December 30th, 2008 - 12:05 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 29 (IANS) The Awami League (AL) of former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and its allied parties were leading as counting was underway of votes cast in Bangladesh’s ninth general elections, according to unofficial results made available by the Election Commission late Monday evening. Hasina scored a landslide victory, as per unofficial results, for the Gopalganj-3 seat that has her ancestral home and is home to the graves of her family members, including the country’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The AL and its nine-party alliance are leading in 10 of the 12 seats for which unofficial results were available.

The results so far have not been favourable for her arch political rival and another former prime minister, Khaleda Zia.

The results are expected to decide whether the Muslim majority South Asian nation would be a moderate state or opt for Islamist extremism at a time when the region and its surroundings are facing the serious problem of terrorism.

Earlier in the day, people turned out in large numbers to vote in the election that had been cancelled in January last year. It was peaceful, save for stray incidents of violence and electoral malpractices.

The military-backed caretaker government, the Election Commission and the two main contenders for power, Hasina and Zia - expressed satisfaction at the way the polls were conducted in the glare of the media and over 200,000 observers, including from abroad.

Bangladesh has a past record of the loser boycotting the results and also the parliament. This time, however, the public sentiment has been strong against street-level politics.

A word of caution came from the army chief, Gen. Moin U. Ahmed, considered a vital part of the regime, who said the winner and loser should work together.

Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, who heads the interim regime, said he looked forward to transferring power to the winner.

Both Hasina and Zia have claimed they will win handsomely, but initial reports indicate that Hasina could be the likely winner.

That things are not going the Zia-way was indicated also by the defeat of her chief Islamist ally. Unofficial results said Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami had lost to AL candidate Shamsul Huque Tuku in Pabna-1 constituency.

Besides winning Gopalganj-3, Hasina also won Rangpur-6 in northern Bangladesh.

The former prime minister got 165,178 votes in Gopalganj-3 constituency with her rival four-party alliance candidate S.M. Zilani getting only 4,068 votes.

In Rangpur-6, Hasina bagged 172,044 votes while her rival four-party’s Noor Mohammad Mandal got 38,440 votes.

Among the AL nominees who established early leads as counting continued non-stop was the party presidium’s member Matia Chowdhury (Sherpur).

In Sylhet-1, former finance minister M. Saifur Rahman, considered close to Zia, was trailing by a narrow margin to Abdul Mal Abdul Muhit, nominee of the Hasina-led nine-party alliance.

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