|Amid Bangladesh carnage, ruling party claims hollow victory
Bangladesh's ruling party defied pressure to open talks with the opposition after its walkover win in an election marred by unprecedented bloodshed, boycotts and low turnout.
Despite warnings that Sunday's victory did not amount to a mandate, the ruling Awami League vowed to “eliminate militancy'' as the death toll from election-day violence climbed to 24.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which refused to field candidates in the election extended a general strike until Wednesday.
Newspapers said the government was leading Bangladesh towards disaster, but one of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's top lieutenants ruled out talks with the BNP to agree a framework for a new vote.
“We're not thinking about talks right now,'' Environment Minister Hasan Mahmud told AFP.
“Our top priority now is to form a government and contain violence. We have to eliminate violence and militancy to give the people a breather.''
The Awami League won after the BNP and 20 other opposition parties refused to take part. With all but a handful of seats still to be declared, the Awami League had won 80 percent of the 300 parliamentary seats. Allies mopped up the rest.
But few were in the mood to celebrate after the carnage of election day when nearly 600 polling stations were torched or trashed.
While the 24 people who died were mostly shot dead by police, the toll also included an election official and polling station security guard.
Although Bangladesh has been rocked by political violence throughout its short history, the country's leading rights monitor Ain O Salish Kendra said it was by far the deadliest election day and campaign period.
The Daily Star said the Awami League had won “a hollow victory which gives it neither a mandate nor an ethical standing to govern effectively.’’
“Yes, we can't say it was a universally acceptable election,'' Communications Minister Obaidul Kader told AFP.
“The festive atmosphere was absent and the turnout was ordinary... but you can't say it is unacceptable.
“Our next task is to form the government. We are ready to hold talks with the opposition to find a consensus, but first they have to eschew violence.''