Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Democracy returns in Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina takes the oath of office

Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina has been sworn in for a second stint as prime minister of Bangladesh.

The ceremony in the capital, Dhaka, marked a return to democracy after two years of army-backed rule.

The Awami League won a landslide in elections last week, in a major turnaround in its leader's fortunes.

Sheikh Hasina and her rival Khaleda Zia - both former prime ministers - had been jailed for suspected corruption but released to contest the vote.


"My main goals will be to bolster law and order in the country and to curb rising inflation," Sheikh Hasina told reporters after taking the oath of office.

Sheikh Hasina hugs an unidentified friend after the swearing-in
There was a sense of jubilation after the swearing-in

"I have just assumed a very big responsibility," she said.

President Iajuddin Ahmed administered the oath of office to the new prime minister and her new ministers at a ceremony at the presidential palace. It was attended by political leaders, civil and military officials, diplomats and other dignitaries.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka says that although this was the second time she has been sworn in as prime minister, it was without doubt the greatest moment of her long career.

Her Awami League and its allies won a massive victory in last week's elections, securing more than 250 seats out of a possible 300.

The largest party in the last parliament, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, was crushed and so was its ally, the main religious party Jamaat-e-Islami.

Our correspondent says that the losers have not yet recovered from the scale of the defeat and are still maintaining that the elections were rigged.

But local and international observer missions said they were largely free and fair, so only Khaleda Zia's most loyal backers still believe her.

The win for the Awami League was a dramatic reversal in fortunes for the two parties. In 2001, the BNP won the election overwhelmingly.

During campaigning, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia pledged to lower food prices and to tackle corruption and terrorism in the nation of 144 million people.

They also both promised to end the confrontation, strikes and violent street rallies that have marked Bangladeshi politics for years.

The two women alternated in power for 15 years until 2006.

The army cancelled elections due in January 2007 after months of street protests and battles between gangs of rival party supporters spiralled out of control.

The army-backed caretaker government then tried to root out corruption from the country's elites, arresting scores of top politicians and businessmen who it said had earned Bangladesh its reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries.

More than 11 million false names were purged from the voter roll.

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