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By Anjana Pasricha
31 December 2008
In Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, who won a landslide victory in the country's first election in seven years, has called on her main rival to cooperate in restoring democracy. The appeal came after her opponent rejected the election results.
Sheikh Hasina reached out to her bitter political rival Khaleda Zia Wednesday, saying she is prepared to work with all sides and offering senior posts to the opposition in exchange for its cooperation. She called on her opponent to accept the results of the recent parliamentary elections.
|Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister and Awami League party leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed after casting her vote at a polling booth in Dhaka, 29 December 2008|
Sheikh Hasina was speaking at her first news conference in Dhaka after her alliance won more than two thirds of seats in elections held after two years of emergency rule.
International observers say the polling was fair and credible. But Khaleda Zia has rejected the vote, alleging widespread fraud and calling it a "farcical election." This has raised fears of street protests by her supporters.
Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia lead the country's two main parties, but their rivalry has often paralyzed the political process and plunged the country into violence.
This time, Sheikh Hasina has struck a conciliatory note, saying she wants to establish a new political culture in the country. She said "we no longer want the politics of violence and
Professor of Political Science at Dhaka University, Ataur Rahman, says Sheikh Hasina has made the right gesture. He says it is now up to Khaleda Zia to reciprocate, and build a genuine
democratic culture in the country.
"She should reciprocate positively. Otherwise the country will slowly or gradually lose the political stability and also the essence of democracy which is compromise and understanding
and working together," said Rahman. "We don't want to foresee such a future for Bangladesh."
In a statement, international observers also urged the opposition to accept the election result, and called on the two leaders to work together to tackle the country's problems.
Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia dominate Bangladeshi politics and have alternated in power for the last 15 years. But whoever has been in opposition, has played an obstructive role - leading strikes, violent street protests, and boycotting parliament. The 2007 elections were cancelled because their two parties could not agree on how the polls should be held.
This time, both leaders are under pressure to give democracy a chance after two years of emergency rule, during which both spent months in prison on charges of corruption.