Bangladesh by-election win widens Hasina majority

Sheikh Hasina, winner of Bangladesh's parliamentary election, speaks during a news conference in Dhaka January 6, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has widened its parliamentary majority by winning an extra seat in Thursday’s by-elections.

Hasina, President Zillur Rahman and former ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad, leader of the Jatiya Party, won three seats each in December’s national election and, under Bangladesh electoral law, had to put two of those three up for re-election.

Awami League candidates won back three of the seats vacated by Hasina and Rahman. An Awami League candidate was elected unopposed in a fourth constituency last week.

Former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, chief of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist hParty (BNP) also vacated two seats. Rahman gave up his seat after he was elected president following national elections held on Dec. 29 last year.

After Thursday’s by-election Awami League holds 231 seats, the BNP 30, Jatiya Party 26 and the rest are held by other smaller parties.

Hasina’s Awami League won a landslide victory in the December elections and took charge from an army-backed interim government which came to power after deadly political violence in January 2007.

But deteriorating law and order and the effects of the global financial crisis had called Hasina’s popularity into question. Added to that, an army mutiny that killed at least 80 people, mostly army officers, has also stoked concerns over the stability of Hasina’s two-month-old civilian government.