New Bangladesh government to be sworn in after disputed polls

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 12, 2014 3:49 AM
New Bangladesh government to be sworn in after disputed polls

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh's new government is set to be sworn in on Sunday, a week after the ruling party won a violence-plagued election that the opposition boycotted and amid growing international calls for a fresh and inclusive polls.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League ended with more than two-thirds of seats in a contest that was shunned by international observers as flawed and derided as a farce by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

With fewer than half the seats contested, the outcome was never in doubt.

The new cabinet will be sworn in this afternoon, with Hasina, 64, taking oath as prime minister for the third term, said cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.

The BNP, led by former premier and Hasina's bitter rival Begum Khaleda Zia, said the new government was not legitimate, but an autocratic dictatorial government devoid of the representation of the people.

On Saturday, Khaleda, 68, left her residence for a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Lee Jung after two weeks of under virtual "house arrest", which the government denied.

Both heirs to political dynasties, Hasina and Khaleda have alternated as prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years.

The United States has called on the new government and opposition to engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold "free, fair, peaceful, and credible" elections as soon as possible.

Hasina has vowed tougher action in a bid to end violence that is also threatening the country's $22 billion garment export industry. Nearly 150 people were killed in election violence in recent months.

The BNP has postponed countrywide transport blockade for an indefinite period from Monday.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Michael Perry)