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Central & South Asia
Zia rejects Bangladesh poll result
Reports of post-election violence emerge as the BNP leader rejects 'farcical' result.
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2008 06:44 GMT
Some voters said they could not cast their ballots due to glitches in the registry system [AFP]

Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has branded the country's general election result "farcical".

The former prime minister alleged Monday's vote was rigged and that a number of BNP supporters had been prevented from casting their ballots.

Election officials on Tuesday announced that Zia's arch rival, Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed, had won a landslide victory after securing two-thirds of the vote.

The general election - Bangladesh's first for seven years - was held in order to restore civilian rule after two years under a military-backed government.

However, despite statements by foreign and local election observers that the election was free and fair, Zia said the results did not reflect the will of Bangladeshi voters.

"It is a farcical election," she said in a televised news conference on Wednesday.

Power-sharing deal?

In turn, Hasina has urged Zia to accept the result, describing the outcome as a vote for "governance over misrule".

Speaking on Wednesday, Hasina also indicated she would be prepared to share power with opposition politicians by offering them a number of government positions.

The vote dispute came after reports of some post-election violence on Tuesday during which one man was killed and around 150 injured in clashes between rival political activists, the private Diganta television station reported.

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Sheikh Hasina Wajed

Khaleda Zia

The main clashes occured in the northern Pabna area, the station said, with outbreaks of violence reported in other parts of the country as well.

However, local and international observers expressed satisfaction with the voting process.

Monitors from Commonwealth nations issued a statement saying the election was "credible... and the tabulation and results processes were transparent".

The statement concluded that "most key democratic benchmarks" had been met.

Complaints filed

Despite this, BNP officials filed complaints with the election commission, alleging ballot-rigging and forgery at 220 polling stations, including instances where officials are accused of registering fake votes.

Election observers say the vote was free and fair despite claims of fraud [Reuters]
Bangladesh's election commission said it would investigate.

More than 81 million eligible voters were photographed and given national ID cards in a process that helped eliminate about 10 million fake or duplicate names.

However, attempts to fight corruption have produced mixed results, including the failure to prevent Hasina and Zia from competing in the election.

Both were among around 200 top politicians charged with corruption, but they were later freed by the country's high court before the vote.

Charges were subsequently dropped against Zia, although her two sons - who also faced corruption charges relating to her 2001-2006 premiership - were forced to leave to country as part of a deal allowing her to stand in Monday's election.

Corruption and murder charges against Hasina have been dropped or frozen, although, in theory at least, she could still face some of the charges.

The murder charge relates to the death of four protesters who were killed during pre-election violence in 2006. That election was eventually cancelled by the military government.

Hasina and Zia have dominated Bangladeshi politics for two decades, a state of affairs which analysts say is more a reflection on South Asia's penchant for political dynasties than the role of women in this impoverished nation.

Though bitter rivals, their parties campaigned on similar platforms of reducing corruption and controlling inflation.

Critics say that while in office, the BNP and the Awami League both failed to significantly alleviate conditions for the 45 per cent of Bangladeshis who live below the poverty line.

Source:
Agencies
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