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Hasina offers olive branch to Zia, says polls ‘legitimate’

Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Hasina Monday asserted that her re-election in the much-disputed polls was legitimate and appealed to her arch-rival, BNP chief Khaleda Zia, to shun “terrorism” and severe ties with the fundamentalist Jamaat to strike a deal on the next elections. “I call upon all again, including the honourable leader of the opposition (Zia), […]

Dhaka |
Updated: January 8, 2014 4:32:10 pm
Relatives of one of the victims of poll-related violence breaks down Monday. Relatives of one of the victims of poll-related violence breaks down Monday.

Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Hasina Monday asserted that her re-election in the much-disputed polls was legitimate and appealed to her arch-rival, BNP chief Khaleda Zia, to shun “terrorism” and severe ties with the fundamentalist Jamaat to strike a deal on the next elections.
“I call upon all again, including the honourable leader of the opposition (Zia), for peaceful talks discarding the path of terrorism and violence and severing ties with war criminals and the militant Jamaat,” a beaming Hasina said, offering an olive branch to the opposition leader.

“A solution can be reached on the next elections only through talks. For that everyone will have to have restraint, tolerance andstop political violence of all sorts,” the 66-year-old told reporters in her first comments after the polls.

The boycott of Sunday’s polls by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) should “not mean there will be a question of legitimacy”, said Hasina. “People participated in the poll and other parties participated.”

Hasina’s Awami League won 104 of the 147 seats for which polling was held Sunday. Having won 127 seats uncontested, the party now has 231 seats, which gives it a clear three-fourths majority in the 10th parliament.

She said fresh elections might be arranged if the Awami League and BNP, led by former Prime Minister Zia, were able to reach a consensus.

The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance boycotted the polls that were marred by violence which claimed nearly 30 lives since Saturday. Opposition cadres set over 200 polling stations on fire Sunday.

The opposition kept away from the polls after Hasina spurned their demands to step down and make space for a neutral caretaker government for overseeing elections.

“Look, I tried my best, I told you, I offered ministries, I offered to share power with our opposition. I have done as much as I can do but they didn’t respond,” she said. “Now if they realise they made a mistake in not participating in election, perhaps then they may come forward to discuss with us or make an offer.”

Hasina ordered police and the army to take stern action to stop violence. “At any cost, lives and properties of people have to be saved, peace ensured and post-polls violence stopped,” she said.

At least five persons, including a youth leader of AL, were killed in violence Monday as opposition parties enforced a strike.

India denounces violence in Bangladesh

New Delhi: Denouncing violence during the parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, India Monday said the polls were a constitutional requirement and the democratic processes must be allowed to take their own course in the country. “Violence cannot and should not determine the way forward,” the spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs  said.     PTI

No voters at 41 polling centres

Dhaka: For the first time, at least 41 polling stations in 11 districts across Bangladesh did not register a single vote during the general election Sunday, a phenomenon Bangladesh has never before witnessed. All centres were located in areas dominated by main opposition parties like BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.

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