Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as Bangladesh’s prime minister for a record fourth term on Monday after her Awami League’s landslide victory in the recent elections that was marred by deadly violence and allegations of vote rigging.
President Md Abdul Hamid administered the oath of office to 71-year-old Hasina at the Bangabhaban for a record third consecutive term. Hasina was first elected prime minister in 1996 and then again in 2008 and 2014.
The president then administered the oaths for the new ministers, ministers of state and deputy ministers who will form the Cabinet.
Hasina will lead a Cabinet of 24 ministers, 19 ministers of state and three state ministers. Her Cabinet is mostly made up of new faces. Thirty-one members of the new Cabinet are first-timers.
Several veterans were dropped from the council of ministers amid speculation about the inductions as major portfolios like defence were retained by Hasina herself.
The new ministers include Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal (Home Affairs), Mohammad Hasan Mahmud (Information), AHM Mustafa Kamal (Finance), Dipu Moni (Education) and AK Abdul Momen (Foreign Affairs).
Hasina, who had included representatives from the Awami League’s allied parties in the previous cabinets, has not picked any of them in her new cabinet. Instead, the new cabinet exclusively consists of members of the Awami League.
The Jatiya Party, a key partner in the Awami League-led Grand Alliance of Hasina, has decided to occupy the opposition benches in Parliament after the main opposition BNP led by ex-premier Khaleda Zia rejected the results of the general election.
Hasina, the president of the Awami League, won the 11th parliamentary elections with a landslide victory even as the Opposition rejected the “farcical” polls marred by violence that claimed 17 lives, making it one of the deadliest polls in the country’s history.
Her ruling Grand Alliance won 96 per cent of the seats contested in the election. Hasina and her alliance have dismissed the accusations of vote rigging.
Hasina was pitted against a united opposition Jatiya Oikya Front (United National Front) led by octogenarian Kamal Hossain, an Oxford-educated jurist and former foreign minister. Her arch-rival and jailed ex-premier chief Zia, who has been serving a 17-year sentence for corruption, was barred from contesting the polls.
On Thursday, she was chosen as the leader of the House for the fourth time.
Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is termed by many as the country’s iron lady.
She has been praised by her supporters for cracking down on Islamist extremists after five homegrown terrorists stormed a Dhaka cafe in 2016, killing 20 hostages, including one Indian.
She also launched trials of the powerful Islamist opposition over crimes committed during the 1971 independence war.
Her critics, however, accuse her of crushing the opposition and creating a one-party dominant political system in Bangladesh.
The Western nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have cautiously welcomed Hasina’s victory but called for a probe into “credible reports” of irregularities, harassment, intimidation and violence.
“There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases,” the UN said in a statement recently.