Sat, Jan 03, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Hasina to take power by Tuesday

RETURN OF DEMOCRACY Despite alleging election irregularities, the Bangladeshi National Party conceded defeat, paving the way for a peaceful transfer of power

AGENCIES , DHAKA

Bangladeshi prime minister-elect Sheikh Hasina Wajed is expected to take power in the impoverished country by Tuesday, following her landslide election victory, officials said yesterday.

The Awami League party leader crushed her rivals in Monday’s general election, which signaled the end of two years of rule by an army-backed caretaker regime.

Party campaign manager H.T. Imam said new ministers of parliament (MP) were likely to be sworn in within the next two days.

The party with the biggest majority will then elect a leader of the house who will form a government, he said.

“Once the leader of the house, which will be Sheikh Hasina, is elected, the president is notified and he will ask the leader to send a list of ministers to him,” Imam said. “To my reckoning we should be able to hold a final swearing-in at the latest by Jan. 6.”

Bangladeshi presidential spokesman Sirajul Islam said Sheikh Hasina would most probably be sworn in on Tuesday.

The Awami League won 230 of the 300 parliamentary seats in Monday’s ballot. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Sheikh Hasina’s arch rival Khaleda Zia won just 29.

Khaleda challenged the result, but later her party said it would give Hasina a chance to govern.

Bangladesh, a calamity-prone Indian Ocean coastal country of more than 140 million people, has a history of post-election violence, usually triggered by the losing parties.

Khaleda rejected the election, saying it has been widely rigged and did not reflect the people’s choices.

But BNP secretary-general Khandakaer Delwar Hossain said on Thursday they would let the Awami League govern to test their efficiency and to see if they delivered on promises.

The country’s army-backed interim administration said it planned to hand over power by the middle of next week, even if all newly elected lawmakers had not taken their oath .

“We want to complete the transfer of power by [the] middle of next week, but the MPs elected from the other alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia, another ex-PM, will probably not take oath immediately,” said an official of the outgoing army-backed interim government.

The army-backed interim government, headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed, took over in January last year amid political turmoil, cancelled an election due that month, imposed emergency rule and cracked down on corruption.

Analysts said the BNP’s decision to allow the Awami League to govern would reduce tension and fears of violent protests that had happened in the past when either of the main parties was defeated.

“This time it is going to be different, largely because the gap between winners and losers is ocean wide,” said Ataur Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Political Science Association.

Local and international monitors billed the election free, fair and credible.

Hasina has said she was ready to offer senior parliamentary posts to Khaleda and her party, and even a few ministerial positions as well, if they cooperated with her new government

She said the main challenges facing Bangladesh were poverty and Islamist militancy. Some 45 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

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