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Bangladesh: Surprise Victory for Opposition Amid Charges of Voter Fraud - 2001-10-02


In Bangladesh, a four-party alliance led by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party is winning a stunning victory in the country's general election. The Bangladesh Nationalist party has won 134 seats in the 300-member parliament, and is leading in 29 others. Its rival, the Awami League, has won only 34 seats. The Awami League is charging voter fraud and is rejecting the results.

A massive anti-incumbency wave is sweeping the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party into power and has led to huge losses for the rival Awami League party.

The impressive victory for Bangladesh Nationalist party comes as a surprise. The election was expected to be closely fought between two powerful women politicians who lead the country's two main parties - Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist party and Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League.

But the Awami League has been wiped out in many of its traditional strongholds such as the capital, Dhaka. Several senior leaders of the party have also been defeated.

The poll was preceded by the most violent election campaign in the country's history. The caretaker government which supervised the polls has urged the parties to accept the result.

But that appears unlikely and Bangladesh faces the prospect of more political unrest.

Faced with the crushing election defeat, Awami League's leader Sheikh Hasina alleged there was widespread election rigging. She told journalists there was a "pre-planned blueprint to ensure our defeat," and said her party was the victim of a conspiracy.

Her allegation came despite the fact that international and local observers expressed satisfaction with Monday's vote and called it generally free and fair.

Political commentators are calling Khaleda Zia's victory a "vote for change." She has congratulated Bangladeshis for giving her a sweeping mandate, but urged her supporters to remain calm in the face of any provocation.

Final results are expected on Wednesday. The voting was held for 299 parliamentary seats. The election for one seat was postponed because of a candidate's death.

Monday's election was the third held in the country under a caretaker administration since democracy was restored in 1991 after the ouster of the last military ruler.

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