Ruling Awami League loses crucial mayor election in Bangladesh

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Khaleda Zia took the mayor seat at Gazipur.

Updated: Jul 07, 2013, 16:33 PM IST

Dhaka: In another poll setback to Bangladesh`s ruling Awami League, the party lost its fifth mayoral election in two months when it was routed today in its stronghold of Gazipur by the opposition BNP, ahead of next year`s general elections.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Khaleda Zia took the mayor seat at Gazipur, the largest corporation in the country, with a margin of 1,06,577 votes.

"I declare M A Mannan elected unofficially," the returning officer announced the name of the winning candidate as the counting of votes was completed early today morning.
"The margin of Mannan`s victory over Awami League`s Ajmat Ullah Khan was 1,06,577 votes," he added.

The rout in suburban Gazipur, known to be a stronghold of Awami League headed by premier Sheikh Hasina, follows the debacle in the four city corporations of Barisal, Khulna, Rajshahi and Sylhet in June where the incumbent ruling party mayors were defeated by their BNP rivals.

Gazipur, which was declared a city corporation only recently and is holding its first mayor elections, is the largest of municipal bodies in Bangladesh with 1,026,938 registered as voters.

"This was an expected result which actually reflected the people`s mind against ruling Awami League misrule," Mannan said after winning the election.

Earlier, Khan termed the voting peaceful while Mannan accused his rivals and election officials of rigging the polls even as voters queued up to exercise their franchise.

The BNP candidate won amidst an opposition campaign to restore non-party caretaker system for election oversight, arguing that no election under the Awami League government could be free and credible.

Prime Minister Hasina has declined to accept this demand saying the general elections should not be held under a non-elected government.

"Unless the trend is bucked, the party (Awami League) that led the country`s liberation struggle and ruled Bangladesh for one-third of its time as an independent nation, may have to prepare for rejection and oblivion (in the coming general elections)," read an analysis by an online newspaper after declaration of the election result.