Awami League to form government again

The Awami League is all set to form government again.

Published : 5 Jan 2014, 11:32 PM
Updated : 5 Jan 2014, 11:32 PM

It won 104 seats of the 147 for which polling was held on Sunday.

Having won 127 seats uncontested, the party has 231 seats, which gives it a clear three-fourth majority in the 10th parliament -- much like it was in the 9th parliament.

But with its allies Bangladesh Workers' Party and JaSad winning another 11 seats between themselves, the Awami League will form a coalition government.

The Jatiya Party led by former military dictator HM Ershad, which kept the nation on tenterhooks over whether it was contesting or staying away from the polls, has 33 seats -- 20 won without a contest.

In all probability it will sit in the Opposition, if Ershad sticks to his pre-poll posture of going it alone and breaking off from the Awami League led 14-Party Grand Alliance.

But while the Awami League won a landslide in the Dec 2008 in an all inclusive poll with the BNP pushed to a poor second, its victory in the Sunday poll came amid the Opposition boycott.

The BNP-led 18 party alliance boycotted the polls and tried its best to stop it, using intense violence that provoked retaliation by security forces.

Chief Election Commissioner rued the absence of the Opposition in Sunday's polls but claimed the polls were largely fair.

The Awami League expressed satisfaction with the polls, saying the people had 'foiled conspiracies to undermine democracy'.

But the BNP and its allies denounced the polls as 'one sided and farcical' and have called for a 48-hour strike beginning 6am on Monday to nullify the results.

It wants a fresh poll under a non-political caretaker dispensation, not with Hasina at the helm.
That is why the polls may lead to a new parliament and a government and certainly not bring an end to the turmoil that has gripped Bangladesh.
The Opposition is destined to continue its violent agitation for fresh elections under a caretaker.
The violence during its blockades and strikes will impact on the economy, with farmers finding it difficult to reach their produce to urban markets and exporters uneasy over falling orders for ready-made garments.
Education will also suffer with schools, colleges and universities affected by relentless strikes.
The new government, sure to be headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has two choices.
Its first option, is to try crushing the Opposition movement using state power and try to carry on, braving a possible global outcry over coming to power in a 'less than credible election'. It could continue implementing the war crimes verdict in a bid to whip up nationalist passions that would undermine the Opposition, specially the Jamaat-e-Islami, most of whose senior leaders stand convicted of 'crimes against humanity' during the 1971 war.
The low turnout in most places may add fuel to such criticism of a 'less than credible' election, though in defence, the ruling party leaders have said the poor turnout was because of the violence unleashed by the Opposition and did not reflect the popular will.
The government's second option would be to control the Opposition violence but also get the ruling and the Opposition parties to continue the dialogue that was kickstarted by UN envoy Oscar Fernandes-Taranco in December.
Hasina and her colleagues have indicated that they were keen to continue the dialogue to evolve a consensus before the next general elections, but with a rider -- the BNP must stop the strikes and the violence and part ways with the Jamaat-e-Islami.
That may not be acceptable to the BNP.
Unless that happens, the violence will continue as Khaleda will seek a repeat of 1996 when a poll marked by a bare 7% turnout forced her to concede a fresh election under a caretaker dispensation that led to an Awami league victory.
In such an eventuality, the Awami League may have to explore other options if the Opposition-sponsored violence spins out of control.