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Bangladesh Opposition Headed for Victory - 2001-10-02

In Bangladesh, a four-party alliance led by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party appears headed for a comfortable victory in the country's general election. Early results from Monday's vote show the alliance has won 70 seats, and is leading in 70 others in the 300-member parliament. Its main rival - the Awami League - has won nine seats and is leading in 37 others.

A massive anti-incumbency wave appears to be working in favor of the four-party alliance led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The party and its allies are leading in a large number of seats across the country. A large number of the country's 75 million voters turned out for Monday's election.

The race was expected to be a closely fought one between two powerful women politicians - Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League who headed the last government. However, projections by state television show that the Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist party has been able to defeat the governing Awami League in many seats. Several cabinet members of the Awami League appear to have lost their positions.

Supporters of both main political parties accused their rivals of cheating in Monday's election. But independent observers said tight security ensured that voting was largely fair and peaceful despite sporadic clashes that left four people dead.

The poll was preceded by the most violent election campaign in the country's history. There are fears supporters of the losing party may launch street protests leading to more unrest. Final results are expected to be out later in the day. Candidates were competing for 299 parliamentary seats. Voting for one seat was postponed due to a candidate's death.

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