Deadlocked Bangladesh swears in contested parliament

Agence France-Presse

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Analysts say the new parliament could be short-lived as Hasina faces a worsening political crisis and a mounting calls for new polls from the opposition

DEFIANT. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks in a media conference following the 10th national election at Gonobhaban in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 06 January 2014. Abid Abdullah/EPA

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh’s newly elected lawmakers took the parliamentary oath on Thursday, January 9, after an election condemned as a farce by critics, with the country’s battling political leaders still locked in a deadly confrontation.

Led by Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister, members of parliament from the ruling Awami League and lawmakers from her allies were sworn in, parliament’s spokesman Joynal Abedin told Agence France-Presse.

“The speaker of the outgoing parliament administered the swearing-in. Only a few MPs could not take the oath in time. They’ll be sworn in later today,” Abedin said.

The Awami League won 232 of 300 seats in Sunday’s (January 5) parliamentary polls, which were boycotted by the opposition and hit by the deadliest election violence in the country’s history.

Analysts say the new parliament could be short-lived as Hasina faces a worsening political crisis and a mounting calls for new polls from the opposition, which has vowed to overthrow her.

The opposition, led by two-time former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who is under de facto house arrest, called for a non-stop blockade of roads, rail and waterways from Wednesday.

The blockade was only partially imposed in the capital, with many activists behind bars after a crackdown by security forces in the weeks running up to Sunday’s election.

Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party called the weekend vote a farce and the United States said it lacked credibility.

A total of 153 Awami League members or allies were elected unopposed as a result of an opposition boycott, imposed over Hasina’s decision to change the electoral process.

Daughter of the country’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina will be elected the leader of the parliament later Thursday after the swearing-in, her spokesman Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury told Agence France-Presse.

“She will then form a new government, which is expected to take oath by Sunday (January 12),” he added.

Hasina has vowed to bring stability after crippling opposition protests that have left around 180 dead since October.

At least 26 people were killed during the election, making it the bloodiest vote in Bangladesh’s 43-year history, while hundreds of opposition supporters torched or trashed polling stations.

After two weeks confined to her home, security was relaxed outside Zia’s house on Wednesday night, but it was unclear whether she would be allowed to leave.

Zia has demanded the polls be declared null and void and that new elections be held under a neutral government headed by a caretaker leader.

Washington has led international pressure for a swift re-run of the elections that would include all the major parties, brushing aside Hasina’s insistence her victory was legitimate.

The United States called for a vote that would “credibly express the will” of the people and asked the parties “to engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold as soon as possible elections that are free, fair, peaceful, and credible”.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon urged the two parties “to resume meaningful dialogue” urgently to create “an inclusive political process”. –

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