Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina offers olive branch to Khaleda Zia
Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha/Tarun Khanna
Dhaka: As ruling Awami League party was declared winner in violence-plagued Bangladesh election, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has offered olive branch to opposition leader Khaleda Zia to ensure that peaceful talks can be carried out in a way to end ongoing unrest.
Election was boycotted by an 18-party opposition alliance led by Khaleda Zia`s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
While offering olive branch to BNP chief Khaleda Zia, Hasina said that she calls upon opposition leader for peaceful talks as a solution can be reached only through talks.
Nation`s premier Hasina has also said that her re-election in the polls was legitimate and that the opposition must shun terrorist activities before she could talk to them.
She said that the boycott by main opposition should not mean there will be question of legitimacy. She further added that she tried her best, but the opposition did not respond.
The outcome of the elections which were bound to be swept by the ruling party, is no solution to the crisis brewing in the country since last few weeks and Bangladesh seems poised to enter a phase of political uncertainty.
The election which the local media reports dubbed as "the bloodiest" in country`s history, was denounced as a farce by the opposition.
The violence continued today as well when at least five people, including a youth leader of the ruling Awami League, were killed in post poll violence. Hasina has ordered security troops to stop killing innocent people.
Calling the Jan 5 elections as a "constitutional requirement", India said that it was for people of Bangladesh to decide their future adding that violence should not be a factor.
Syed Akbaruddin, Ministry of External Affairs India tweeted the government`s statement that said, "They (elections) are a part of the internal and constitutional process of Bangladesh. Violence cannot and should not determine the way forward. The democratic processes must be allowed to take their own course in Bangladesh."
— Syed Akbaruddin (@AkbarMEA) January 6, 2014
Marred by violence and the opposition boycott, 41 polling stations across Bangladesh did not register a single vote. Such a situation has never before been witnessed by Bangladesh.
Violence and bloodshed dominated the election day when at least 21 people were killed in poll-related violence, with most of the victims being opposition activists.
As less than half of parliamentary seats had been contested, and most of the candidates out of 390 who contested were from Awami League and its ally Jatiya Party, the ruling party`s win was well anticipiated.
Though the Election Commission hasn`t announced the results officially yet, according to media reports, PM Sheikh Hasina`s Awami League bagged 107 seats out of 147 that were contested. While its ally Jatiya Party notched 13 seats. Other parties and independent candidates grabbed a total of 13 seats, said reports.
With 127 seats that went to its kitty uncontested, the ruling Awami League has now won a total of 234 seats, which gives it a clear three-fourth majority in the 10th parliament.
Meanwhile, the opposition BNP has extended the strike till Wednesday and is now demanding that elections be declared null and void.
"The country has rejected these farcical elections which were meaningless, laughable and universally unacceptable," said BNP`s Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
The election was boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by PM Hasina`s arch rival Khaleda Zia after the government rejected the opposition`s demand of setting up a caretaker government to oversee the elections.
The election that was marred by violence saw an unmentionably low turnout as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad refrained from giving a figure of turnout and attributed the thin turnout to the boycott of election and the fog in some northern districts.
However, he claimed the elections were “fair”.
While the ruling party appeared satisfied by the turnout, the opposition slammed the election as a “one-sided” contest, saying that the low turnout reflected the people`s rejection.
“People have rejected the government by saying no to its expectation of clutching to power through the one-sided election," BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said according to the reports.
Despite humongous security presence across the country, the opposition activists torched several polling stations and stole ballots. Clashes erupted police took on the opposition activists, hell-bent on disrupting elections by attacking polling centres and blocking transport.
Over 200 polling stations were firebombed and the voting was suspended on over 160 polling centres.
According to the security officials, over 375,000 security personnel were deployed across Bangladesh to maintain peace and nearly 50,000 army troops were kept on vigil. Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion forces are maintaining security in the country.
More than 100 people were killed since opposition began a campaign to boycott elections last year which led to detention of several opposition leaders and activists. Most of the turmoil has been seen in rural areas.
Hasina, who beat two-time premier Zia in a December 2008 election, has accused her bitter rival of holding the country hostage in the name of strikes and blockades. Moreover, she has refused opposition demand for her to step down and for a neutral government to oversee the poll.
Two decades ago, both the women had ousted a dictator and ushered in a new era of democracy in the country. However, they later became arch rivals.
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