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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Bangladesh parliament boycott
Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina's Awami League is not accepting defeat
Bangladesh's Awami League has responded to its landslide election defeat by announcing a boycott of parliament unless fresh elections are held.


We will neither take oath as members of parliament nor join the parliament

Sheikh Hasina
The party, led by Sheikh Hasina, is insisting that Monday's polls were rigged and is promising a series of protest demonstrations.

International monitors have said the voting was mostly free and fair, despite one of the bloodiest election campaigns in the country's history.

Khaleda Zia's victorious Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has begun consultations to form a new government, but the Awami League is unmoved.

"We will neither take oath as members of parliament nor join the parliament," she was quoted as saying.

Non-cooperation

The BBC's Alastair Lawson in Dhaka says Sheikh Hasina's announcement effectively ends efforts by the incoming government to establish a process of national reconciliation, following a bitterly fought election.

BNP supporters
The BNP is celebrating one of the most convincing victories in Bangladesh's history
Sheikh Hasina has said her party will launch a non-cooperation campaign if the election results are not cancelled by October 10.

While the BNP victory represents a major change in the country's politics, the Awami League's response mean that acrimonious relations between government and opposition remain unaltered.

When Mrs Zia was in opposition, she too boycotted parliament and embarked on a series of one-day strikes which brought the country to a halt.

Now parliament will once again function without an opposition.

Awami League Secretary-General Zillur Rahman said earlier the party wanted an entirely fresh election to be held across the country.

Devastating defeat

According to the latest confirmed results, the BNP has taken 186 of parliament's 300 seats and the Awami League has 61.

A total of 16 constituencies are repolling and the vote in one has been postponed because a candidate died.

Correspondents says it is a devastating defeat for the Awami League.

Mrs Zia has held talks with Islamic fundamentalist members of her four-party coalition to discuss cabinet seats.

She was also due to meet the head of the caretaker government on Wednesday to discuss the formation of her new administration.

Mrs Zia, who was last in power in 1996, is expected to be formally announced as premier by President Shahabuddin Ahmed within the next two days.

Law and order

Our correspondent says the key factor behind Mrs Zia's victory was her ability to exploit resentment throughout the country over the breakdown of law and order.

The country is also plagued by corruption.

Khaleda Zia
Mrs Zia has started talks on forming a new government
Despite the Awami League's rejection of the result, sources within her party have conceded the overwhelming defeat should lead to reflection, not protest.

"We need a proper evaluation of why we faced a disaster in the polls," one anonymous party source told the Reuters news agency.

In a brief post-election address Mrs Zia called upon her supporters not to take revenge for any injustices they may have endured in recent years.

Analysts say this was clearly meant as a message of reconciliation after a campaign in which 140 people were killed.

The poll was preceded by the most violent campaign in the country's 30-year history and diplomats warn that further unrest could follow.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jill Mcgivering, in Dhaka
"These elections were monitored by international observers"
See also:

03 Oct 01 | South Asia
Zia ready to take reins in Bangladesh
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
Deaths mar Bangladesh election
02 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: A tale of two women
28 Sep 01 | South Asia
Campaigning ends in Bangladesh
23 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh rally bombed
17 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh hunts party office bombers
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