|Bangladesh PM Hasina cornered over dubious poll
Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of “murdering democracy'' as her arch rival faced growing calls Tuesday to hold new polls after a walkover election.
(Pictured, Bangladeshi dhobi, or washermen, at work on the banks of the polluted Buriganga River during a strike called by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Dhaka, Bangladesh).
The United States led international pressure for a swift re-run that would include all the major parties.
Zia, who has been confined to her home for about two weeks, reiterated her calls for Hasina to stand aside and let a neutral caretaker government organize the new election, AFP reports.
“I'm calling on the government to cancel the farcical polls, step down and reach an understanding [with the opposition] to organize a free, fair and neutral election under a non-party government,'' she said in a statement released overnight Monday.
“The scandalous election on January 5 not only demonstrated the people's lack of confidence in the government but also proved that free, fair, credible, peaceful and participatory elections cannot be held without a non-party neutral government and credible election commission.''
At least 26 people were killed during the election, the bloodiest vote in Bangladesh's history, while hundreds of opposition supporters torched or trashed polling stations.
The result was never in doubt, with Hasina's Awami League and a handful of allies winning all the seats being contested.
The US called for a new vote that would “credibly express the will'' of the people.
“With more than half of the seats uncontested and most of the remainder offering only token opposition, the results of the just-concluded elections do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people,'' said State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.
“While it remains to be seen what form the new government will take... we encourage the government of Bangladesh and opposition parties to engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold as soon as possible elections that are free, fair, peaceful, and credible.''