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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
New Bangladesh leader sworn in
Deputies are sworn in to the Bangladeshi parliament
Khaleda Zia (right) enjoys a huge majority
The new prime minister of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia, has taken the oath of office at a ceremony in the capital, Dhaka.

It follows the landslide victory in the general election earlier this month of Mrs Zia's four-party opposition alliance.

With a two-thirds majority in parliament, Mrs Zia is arguably the most powerful prime minister to be elected in Bangladesh's thirty-year history, a BBC correspondent in Dhaka said.

Mrs Zia, the first prime minister to hold the office three times, took the oath dressed in a traditional green sari, reciting a Koranic verse.

Troops guarding the Election Commission
Troops are on standby for widespread civil unrest

Mrs Zia's large majority could give her an opportunity to address the ills of one of the world's poorest countries, plagued by corruption and political violence, our correspondent says.

Mrs Zia has said that her top priority will be to free Bangladesh from lawlessness and corruption.

Her domination of parliament will go unchallenged because the opposition Awami League says it intends to boycott the assembly - as Mrs Zia's party did during much of its time in opposition.

The Awami League is campaigning against what the party says was massive vote rigging by Mrs Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party in last week's polls.

Islamist influence

The prime minister's strong position means that she can afford to ignore demands from two hard-line Muslim parties in her alliance to condemn the US-led military action in Afghanistan, analysts said.

Despite her alliance with the Islamic parties, Mrs Zia has portrayed herself as a staunch ally of the United States and Britain.

She is unlikely to jeopardise those relationships as Bangladesh's struggling economy depends heavily on aid and investment from the west, our correspondent says.

The BNP and its allies won 214 of the parliament's 300 seats. Voting still has to take place in two constituencies.

Sheikh Hasina's Awami League won just 62 seats after the country's most violent campaign in which 140 people were killed.

Internal and international monitors, however, said the polling itself was free and fair.

Instability fears

Mrs Hasina is ignoring pleas from Bangladesh's business community and other sectors to accept the result or risk plunging Bangladesh into further volatility.

Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina is refusing to accept the result

"Our agony is heightened because we, in good faith, expected a credible election but the scenario had been totally different," she said on Tuesday, dismissing her rivals as "terrorists".

BNP officials say Mrs Zia has tried to speak to Mrs Hasina - but without success.

Personal feud, general strikes

The vitriolic personal feud between the two women has dominated Bangladeshi politics in recent years.

Observers pointed out that when Mrs Hasina was prime minister, she often announced that her efforts to talk to Mrs Zia had been in vain.

She was usually trying to persuade Mrs Zia to cancel the many general strikes she called.

Now, Mrs Hasina in turn is likely to employ the weapon of strikes against Mrs Zia's government, analysts said.

The Chief Election Commissioner MA Syed has described the Awami League's election rigging charges as "baseless".

The standoff looks set to perpetuate the chronic stalemate in Bangladeshi politics.

Security has been intensified around the country amid fears of further unrest.

At least nine people have died in escalating political violence since the vote.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alistair Lawson
"Nearly half the population of around a hundred and thirty million live below the poverty line "
See also:

03 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh parliament boycott
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
10 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh Hindus seek protection
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