Fresh elections may be held if the Awami League and BNP reach consensus
Dhaka : Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina on Monday asserted that her re-election in the much-disputed polls was legitimate and appealed to her arch-rival, BNP chief Khaleda Zia, to shun “terrorism” and sever ties with the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.
“I invite all, including the honourable leader of the opposition for peaceful talks, discarding terrorism and violence and severing ties with war criminals and the militant Jamaat,” a beaming Hasina said while offering an ‘olive branch’ to the opposition leader.
“A solution can be reached on the next elections only through talks. Everyone will have to have restraints, tolerance and stop political violence of all sorts,” the 66-year-old told reporters in her first comments after the polls.
The boycott of Sunday’s polls by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) should “not mean there will be a question of legitimacy”, said Hasina. “People participated in the poll and other parties participated.” Hasina’s Awami League won 104 of the 147 seats for which polling was held. Having won 127 seats uncontested, the party now has 231 seats, required for a clear three-fourth majority in the 10th parliament.
She said fresh elections could be held if the Awami League and BNP, led by former Prime Minister Zia, are able to reach a consensus. The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance boycotted the polls that were marred by violence which claimed nearly 30 lives since Saturday.
Opposition cadres set ablaze over 200 polling stations on Sunday. The opposition kept away from the polls after Hasina spurned their demands to step down and make way for a neutral caretaker government to oversee the elections. “, I offered ministries, I offered to share power with our opposition. I have done as much as I can but they did not respond,” she said.
“If they realise their mistake in not participating in the election, they may come forward to discuss and make an offer. Hasina ordered police and the army to enforce stringent measures to prevent post-poll violence. “Lives and properties of people have to be saved, peace ensured and post-polls violence stopped,” she said. “Hence, I have issued directives to all members of the administration, military and law enforcement agencies to contain post election terrorism and violence with an iron fist,”
At least five persons, including a youth leader of the Awami League, were killed in violence on Monday as opposition parties enforced a nationwide strike to protest what they term as a “farcical” vote.
The opposition launched the 48-hour strike on Monday. It was also enforcing an indefinite blockade of railways, roads and waterways. The government blames BNP and its ally, Jamat-e-Islami for the violence before and during the polls, that has claimed over 150 lives.