Zia cries foul, Hasina seeks cooperation after Bangladesh poll verdict

December 31st, 2008 - 12:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghDhaka, Dec 31 (IANS) Former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League won the general elections with a huge majority, is seeking cooperation to “strengthen democracy” while her political rival, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia, alleges rigging in the polls. Hasina sought the help of her political rivals “to strengthen democracy and develop the nation”. She conveyed her message through a delegation of the UN mission that called on her and agreed to carry it to Zia and others who scored 32 against the Awami League led alliance’s 262 in an assembly of 299, media reports said.

But Zia was clearly furious.

Going back on her expression of satisfaction at the end of the poll Monday, she said sarcastically Tuesday evening: “At first I want to thank the chief election commissioner for stage-managing the parliamentary election and clearing the way for introducing ‘new Baksal’.”

“Baksal” is a reference to the single-party rule that Hasina’s father, slain president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, introduced in early 1975.

She also objected to the Election Commission announcing unofficial results.

As for the conduct of the poll, she alleged: “Up to 50 percent of the vote was cast by noon, and after that most of the polling centres got empty. Still, around 90 percent votes were shown to have been registered in those centres.”

Asked if her BNP rejected the results, the Daily Star quoted her as saying: “You know what unacceptable means.”

Zia termed her reaction “preliminary” and did not indicate her course of action.

Hasina’s victory has been hailed by the international community, including the US and India. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited Hasina to visit New Delhi, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, well known to the Bangladeshi establishment, is to visit Dhaka.

The military-backed caretaker government of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, in office for 23 months, has said it would set the constitutional process moving for transfer of power immediately. It would take between seven to 10 days.

The poll verdict threw up the most one-sided results since 1970, when as part of Pakistan, then East Pakistan had elected Awami League to all but two seats.

The results have come as a shock for the BNP.

In the 1991 parliamentary polls, the BNP clinched 140 seats and formed the government with its allies.

In 1996, the party was beaten by the Awami League but won 116 seats and emerged as the largest ever opposition party in parliament.

In the 2001 parliamentary elections, the BNP obtained 193 seats, and a two-thirds majority with its allies to form a a government that quit office on completion of the term in October 2006.

In the turmoil that followed, Hasina boycotted the poll and the ninth general election was cancelled in January last year.

In the final tally, the Awami League led grand alliance secured 262 seats, outplaying the BNP-led four-party combine that got only 32.

The Awami League bagged 230 seats while its ally Jatiya Party (Ershad) got 27, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) three and Workers Party two seats.

The BNP won 29 seats while its key four-party ally Jamaat-e-Islami saw its once-proud seat tally plummet to a humiliating two from 17 in 2001 in what appears to be a wholesale rejection of the party by the voters.

Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP), another component of the four-party alliance, bagged one seat, while Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) got one and four went to independents.

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