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Sheikh Hasina Wajed Sworn in as Bangladesh Prime Minister

In Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajed has been sworn in as prime minister, restoring democracy to the country after two years of rule by an interim administration backed by the army. The new prime minister says she wants to end decades of political confrontation with the opposition.         

Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed was sworn into office at the presidential palace in Dhaka.   She comes to power following a landslide victory in elections held by an army-backed administration. 

Sheikh Hasina has called for opposition leader and bitter rival, Begum Khaleda Zia, to cooperate in restoring democracy and promised to end decades of political confrontation.  Democracy was suspended for two years after the parties they head paralyzed the country with street protests and deadly violence. 

There are signs that change is in the air for a country whose politics has long been hostage to the bitter rivalry between the two women known as the "battling Begums."  

Khaleda Zia, has said she is prepared to work with her rival, and sent a team of newly-elected legislators from her party to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new prime minister.  It is seen as a conciliatory gesture for a leader who has rejected the election results.

The head of the Dhaka-based Center for Policy Dialogue, Mustafizur Rahman, says there is a mood of optimism in the country. 

"Everyone is hoping that we will be able to have a new start in 2009 and that the culture of politics will be somewhat different from the very confrontational politics we had," he said.  "We were without democratic governance for two years.  People are hoping that we will have good democratic governance and also good economic governance."

It is the second time that Sheikh Hasina will head the government - she was earlier prime minister between 1996 and 2001.

She has vowed to make the fight against poverty the main priority of her administration, and to bring down high food prices that are hurting millions of people in one of the world's poorest countries.

Analysts say she must also focus on improving governance in a nation where corruption is deeply entrenched.    

For the past two years the interim emergency administration had made the fight against corruption its main priority, and jailed many senior leaders, including Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia on charges of corruption.  Sheikh Hasina still faces several criminal charges.   

 

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