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Election loser claims large-scale vote-rigging

Latest update : 2008-12-31

Begum Khaleda Zia, who lost the election to long-standing rival Sheikh Hasina, has disputed the results of the vote - which gave her opponent a landslide victory. Independent monitors said the election appeared largely fair and credible.

  
Watch how the Web covered the election here

 

AFP - Bangladesh's former premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed won the country's first election since 2001 in a landslide Tuesday, crushing her bitter rival to retake power in the impoverished south Asian nation.
   
The election commission said Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party had won 229 of the 295 seats in parliament counted so far, giving her an overwhelming win in Monday's vote with just a handful of results still to be tallied.
   
"She has a clear majority to govern without any other party," commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman told AFP.
   
Her rival Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which won the last election in 2001 by a huge margin, garnered only 27 seats in the ballot, which ended two years of rule by an army-backed caretaker government.
   
"There have been a lot of irregularities," BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed said.
   
"Our supporters have been kept from voting, and our polling agents and officials have been barred from performing their duties."
   
Sheikh Hasina and Zia, known as the battling begums, ruled alternately from 1991 until the interim government was installed, and their bitter personal rivalry has been blamed for paralysing political life in the country.
   
The caretaker regime made efforts to shake up the system, and went so far as to jail both women for corruption, but agreed to release them to contest the election.
   
Although polling was peaceful, there are concerns that the restoration of democracy will see the country slip back into the negative, confrontational politics of the past.
   
Newspapers hailed Sheikh Hasina's performance, with the English-language Daily Star describing the win as "stunning" proof that the country was "hungry for change."
   
Dhaka University political science professor Ataur Rahman said it represented a "huge backlash" against the last BNP government, which had a reputation for rampant corruption.
   
A UN-funded digital electoral roll, which eliminated 12.7 million fake names, appeared to have put a lid on the widespread vote rigging seen in previous polls, observers said.
   
"What we have heard is that voting has largely been peaceful, turnout has been high and procedures were followed adequately," the European Union's chief election observer, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, said.
   
The Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, the BNP's key partner in its four-party alliance, was way down on the 17 seats it won in 2001, winning just two this time, the official results showed.
   
The Daily Star said the loss was "a wholesale rejection of the party" by voters in the conservative Muslim-majority nation.
   
The election attracted a 70 percent turnout and saw none of the deadly violence that forced the last scheduled vote to be cancelled.
   
The army-backed government took power in January 2007 following months of political unrest in which at least 35 people were killed.
   
Some 50,000 armed troops had been on alert nationwide during Monday's voting, while 600,000 police officers were deployed to crack down on fraud or disruptions at the 35,000 polling booths.
   
The EU -- among the 200,000 observers including 2,500 from abroad watching voting -- said the coming days would be crucial in restoring democratic rule to the desperately poor nation of 144 million people.
   
The Awami League, formed in 1948, traditionally had socialist economic policies but Hasina, 61, has moved it towards backing private sector expansion.
   
Sheikh Hasina's father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led Bangladesh in its liberation struggle against Pakistan in 1971 and was assassinated in a 1975 military coup.

Date created : 2008-12-30

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