Page last updated at 09:03 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hasina wins Bangladesh landslide

Sheikh Hasina gives a victory sign after casting her vote in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 29 December 2008

Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League has won a landslide victory in Bangladesh's election, with almost all results declared.

Election officials say the Awami League alliance has won more than 250 of the 300 seats in parliament.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party alliance of Ms Hasina's arch-rival Khaleda Zia has won just 30.

Turnout was high in the first election for seven years, which came after two years of army-backed rule.

The win for the Awami League is a dramatic reversal in fortunes for the two parties, says the BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka. In 2001, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party won the election overwhelmingly.

Tight security

The Awami League "has a clear majority to govern without any other party", Election Commission official SM Asaduzzaman told the AFP news agency.

A leader of Khaleda Zia's BNP said its supporters were kept from voting in various parts of the country, and it planned to file a complaint.

Supporters of Awami League party celebrate initial results in Dhaka, Bangladesh (29/12/2008)

"We have reports that BNP supporters were barred from coming to the polls and also were driven away from polling stations in many places," BNP leader Rizvi Ahmed told local television, Reuters news agency reported.

He said there were incidents of fraud and forgery at more than 200 polling stations.

But the Election Commission said the vote was "a very free and fair election".

The BNP's ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, lost most of its seats.

Election officials say more than 70% of Bangladesh's 81 million voters are thought to have cast their ballots in a poll intended to return the country to democracy after two years of rule by a military-backed government.

Security was tight throughout polling day, with about 50,000 soldiers and 600,000 police deployed to guard against election fraud and violence.

Chief election commissioner Shamsul Huda said he had complete confidence in the election process and there was "no scope for fraud of vote rigging".

He added: "So it will be difficult to reject the election result this time. We expect people will elect a parliament, which even if not a dream parliament, it will be a good one."

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

During campaigning, the two rivals 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.

Anti-corruption drive

No serious violence was reported during the election, and our correspondent says the mood at a polling station he visited was festive.

Some 200,000 electoral observers, including 2,500 from abroad, monitored the national vote.

Security personnel guard polling boxes in Dhaka, Bangladesh - 28/12/2008
Strikes and violent protests have marked Bangladeshi politics

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.

Our correspondent says the newly-empowered Anti-Corruption Commission sought to prosecute the top politicians and businessmen who 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.

"This time we feel that there is an opportunity to proceed towards democracy," one voter told the BBC.

"I'm feeling very happy that there is this peaceful atmosphere for casting votes."

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