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Bangladesh PM open for talks if unrest ends

At least 24 people have been killed in election-related violence, making the vote the bloodiest in country's history.

Last updated: 07 Jan 2014 08:53
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Bangladesh's prime minister, who insists her election victory is legitimate, has said that her opponents had to abandon 'terrorist activities' before she would talk to them.

In an address to media at her house in Dhaka on Monday, Sheikh Hasina denied there was a crisis in the country and that people had voted in line with democracy and the constitution.

Sheikh Hasina’s son blames opposition for the unrest

Hasina's ruling Awami League party had on Sunday won one of the most violent elections in the country's history, marred by street fighting, low turnout and a boycott by the opposition that made the results a foregone conclusion.

The political gridlock plunges Bangladesh deeper into turmoil and economic stagnation, and could lead to more violence in a deeply impoverished country of 160 million.

Hasina said the boycott by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party should "not mean there will be a question of legitimacy."

"People participated in the poll and other parties participated," Hasina told reporters in her first comments since the elections.

The BNP refused to take part in the polls after Hasina rejected its demands to stand aside and allow the elections to be organised by a neutral caretaker government.

Compromise offered

The prime minister said she had offered BNP leader Khaleda Zia the chance to join an interim cross-party government ahead of the vote.

"Look, I tried my best, I told you, I offered ministry, I offered to share power with our opposition. I have done as much as I can do but they didn't respond," she told foreign journalists in Dhaka.

Bangladesh holds thousands of activists in prison

"Now if they realise that they made a mistake in not participating in the election, perhaps then they may come forward to discuss with us or make an offer.

"If they come forward to discuss with us, they have to leave all these terrorist activities behind because what they are doing it is absolutely killing people, killing police, killing innocent people."

Sunday's vote was the most violent in Bangladesh's post-independence history, with at least 24 people being killed while hundreds of polling stations were attacked by opposition supporters.

BNP vice president Shamsher Chowdhury said the low turnout showed the overwhelming desire for elections to be overseen by a neutral administration.

"This government must declare this election null and void and we need a new election organised by a non-party government," he told the AFP news agency. "The government should not waste any more time."

Any agreement on a new vote carries huge risks for Hasina, with an eve-of-election poll showing she would have lost in a straight contest with the BNP.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon criticised both the main parties and called for them "to resume meaningful dialogue and to urgently address the expectations of the people of Bangladesh for an inclusive political process".

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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