Hasina's alliance wins massive majority in Bangladesh

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The Independent Online

An alliance led by Bangladesh's former prime minister Sheikh Hasina won a massive parliamentary majority in the country's first election for seven years, officials said yesterday, but a rival party complained of irregularities.

Analysts said it was unclear if the losers would accept the result or stage street protests, despite comments from independent monitors that the election appeared largely fair and credible.

A leader of Begum Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party said its supporters were kept from voting in parts of the country, and it was filing a complaint. Rizvi Ahmed, its leader, said: "We have reports that BNP supporters were barred from coming to polls and were driven away from polling stations in many places."

Political confrontations, strikes and street violence have hampered the effectiveness of Bangladeshi governments. Monday's poll marked the country's return to democracy after two years of emergency rule imposed by an army-backed interim administration.

Sheridan Prasso, a US-based Asian Society Fellow, said: "It's critical that both sides accept the result... If not, Bangladesh risks sliding back into the anarchy, violence and corruption that have characterised its past."

The "Grand Alliance" led by Ms Hasina's Awami League, had so far won 263 seats in the 300-seat parliament, officials said, with the Awami League alone winning 229 seats. With just 31 seats going to a group led by Ms Khaleda, 63, another former prime minister, it was the worst showing ever for her and her party. Election officials had given the outcome for 295 seats late yesterday but had yet to say when the Election Commission would announce the complete result.

The size of Ms Hasina's win could raise expectations that she can deliver on all her election promises, which containing prices and promoting growth in a country where 45 per cent of people live below the poverty line.