DHAKA (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her allies won a huge majority in Bangladesh’s first election in seven years, officials said on Tuesday, but her long-time rival alleged large-scale vote-rigging.
Political analysts said it was unclear if the losers would accept the result or call for protests by their supporters, ignoring the judgment of independent monitors that the election appeared largely fair and credible.
Hasina told U.N. election observers on Tuesday she wanted to work with all sides, including the opposition, to strengthen democracy and achieve economic progress, a spokesman for her Awami League told reporters.
By late Tuesday her party had won 229 seats and her alliance a 263-seat landslide in the 300-member parliament, according to results announced. Five results remained outstanding.
Hasina, 61, was expected to hold a news conference on Wednesday, her party said.
Begum Khaleda Zia, another former prime minister and Hasina’s long-standing rival, alleged widespread fraud in elections that gave her party just 31 seats.
“So we reject the election outcome,” she said in her first reaction to elections which marked the South Asian state’s return to democracy after two years of emergency rule by an army-backed interim government.
One person was killed and 50 were injured in clashes between rival political activists in the northern Pabna area, Diganta TV quoted police and witnesses as saying.
About 100 people were hurt in post-election violence throughout the country, the station said. Another private channel, Bangla Vision, reported two deaths.
Security remained tight across Bangladesh and police were on alert for attacks by Islamist militants as the army-backed interim authorities prepared to hand over to civilian rule.
Police said they seized 28 live grenades and were questioning two suspected Islamists arrested in the port of Chittagong on Tuesday.
Strikes, street violence and attacks by militants trying to turn Muslim-majority Bangladesh into an Islamic state based on sharia, Islamic law, have hampered past Bangladeshi governments.
Hasina and Khaleda alternated in power during 15 years up to 2006 in Bangladesh’s personality-dominated politics. Many of the country’s problems remained unresolved, in part as a result of protests, strikes and street violence by their parties when out of office.
The turbulence deterred investors and distracted the government from challenges such as endemic corruption, political and social unrest and Islamic militancy.
Hasina has pledged to contain prices and promote growth in the country of more than 140 million people, 45 percent of whom live below the poverty line.
While she had been expected to win Monday’s vote, the size of her victory could play against her by raising expectations that she can deliver on all her election promises.
“People might now think that with the biggest election success of the Awami League since 1970, Hasina will arrange for them everything she listed in the election manifesto,” said Bangladesh Political Science Association chairman Ataur Rahman.
Most Bangladesh Muslims are moderates, and analysts said Khaleda suffered from the presence in her alliance of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami. Its chief and other leaders lost their seats and it saved only two of its 17 seats.
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