Bangladesh's Sheikh Hasina Wins Landslide Election


The Awami League, led by former prime minister Sheik Hasina, has gained a clear majority of the parliamentary seats in Bangladesh's election. International observers are preliminarily deeming the election fair, which came after a two-year period of emergency rule by an army-backed caretaker government.  There are high hopes there that the poverty-wracked country of 150 million people is putting its legacy of autocratic, corrupt and violent politics behind it.

Election officials say the Awami League overwhelmingly was the dominant party in the first parliamentary election here in seven years. The secular, left-of-center party, led by Sheik Hasina, captured about 230 of the parliament's 300 seats. Allied parties won about another 30. The Awami League now has a mandate to push through constitutional changes and its sweeping reform manifesto.

The election commission says a record 85 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

The results are a crushing defeat for Hasina's long-time foe, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who allied with several other parties, including an Islamic fundamentalist group.  

Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party is formally complaining that its supporters were kept from voting in various places.

Such allegations are not swaying the preliminary opinion of domestic and international observers that the election process, while not perfect, was conducted in a fair manner and free of the widespread vote-rigging typical of past elections.

Former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Constance Berry Newman, led the 65-person observer delegation of the International Republican Institute.

"Though observers noted many procedural irregularities they did not believe them of the scope and severity that would call into question the legitimacy of the process or the outcome," said Newman.

Despite the Awami League's overwhelming victory, Melbourne University (Australia) political science research fellow Syeed Ahamed says Sheik Hasina's party must give its arch-rival a role in parliamentary affairs.

"Even if BNP has only some say 30 to 35 seats in the popular vote they actually present almost 50 percent of the population," said Ahamed. "That should be kept in mind. If Awami League do not put BNP in a significant position, what will happen if actually BNP resigns en masse from the parliament? It will be chaos."

The two major rival parties traded power during a 15-year period that ended in 2006 with political violence on the streets spinning out of control. That compelled the military to intervene, installing a caretaker government.

The interim leaders vowed a crackdown on political corruption, jailing hundreds of people, including Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. The two fierce rivals, known as the "Battling Begums" and heirs to political dynasties, were freed to contest the long-delayed election.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs