Dhaka: Bangladesh’s former prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed won the country’s first election since 2001 in a landslide on Tuesday, crushing her bitter rival to retake power.
The Election Commission said Hasina’s Awami League party had won 231 of the 297 seats in Parliament counted so far, giving her an overwhelming win in Monday’s vote with just a few results still to be tallied. “She has a clear majority to govern without any other party,” commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman said.
Her rival Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which won the last election in 2001 by a huge margin, got only 27 seats in the ballot that ended an army-backed caretaker government’s two-year rule.
Clear majority: Awami League president Sheikh Hasina (right) with supporters at her residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Tuesday. Pavel Rahman / AP
“There have been a lot of irregularities,” BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed said. “Our supporters have been kept from voting, and our polling agents and officials have been barred from performing their duties.”
The Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, the BNP’s key partner, was way down on the 17 seats it garnered in 2001, winning just two this time.
Sheikh Hasina and Zia, known as the battling begums, ruled alternately from 1991 until the interim government was installed, and their bitter personal rivalry has been blamed for paralysing political life in the country.
The caretaker regime made efforts to shake up the system, and went so far as to jail both women for corruption, but agreed to release them to contest the election.
Newspapers hailed Sheikh Hasina’s performance, with the English-language Daily Star describing the win as “stunning” proof that the country was “hungry for change”.
A UN-funded digital electoral roll, which eliminated 12.7 million fake names, appeared to have put a lid on the widespread vote rigging seen in previous polls, observers said.
The election attracted a record voter turnout of 85%, with the figure reaching 90% in rural areas, the Election Commission said.