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Bangladesh Opposition demands fresh polls as maiden session of 11th Parliament begins


Press Trust of India Dhaka
Bangladesh's Opposition renewed its demand for fresh polls in the country, alleging that the December elections were "farce and rigged" as Parliament's maiden session began on Wednesday after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League returned to power for the third consecutive term.
Former premier Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies said they would boycott Parliament and vowed to hold huge demonstrations unless fresh polls were held within six months.
Several hundred BNP activists rallied in the capital Dhaka to protest against the elections, demanding resignation of the new government to pave ways for fresh polls.
In the beginning of the first session of the 11th national parliament, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Deputy Speaker Md Fazle Rabbi Miah were re-elected to their old posts.
President Abdul Hamid administered the oath of office to Speaker Choudhury who chaired the House during the previous ninth and 10th parliament as well.
The December 30 polls elected 300 lawmakers through direct votes reducing beleaguered BNP to just eight seats.
The ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers of the new government took oath of office headed by Prime Minister Hasina, 71, on January 7.
On the other hand, winning contestants of 73-year-old Zia's BNP declined to be sworn in, calling the polls a "farce" as Awami League secured 96 per cent of the vote.
The situation resulted in the emergence of former military ruler and President HM ERshad's Jatiya Party, which was a crucial ally of Awami League-led Grand Alliance in the past government as the main opposition in Parliament with 22 seats.
Acknowledging that criticism is important in a democratic process, Prime Minister Hasina speaking in Parliament assured that the Opposition will be able to make enough criticism of the government as no obstacle will be created to this end.
"We never did it (creating obstacle) in the past and will never do in the future," she said.
She said the people of the country have regained the trust and confidence in the government as the previous parliament was run in a good manner.
According to Bangladesh's Constitution lawmakers elect must take oath within 90 working days after the election result is announced otherwise they would lose their membership.
"It was a stolen election, massively rigged, and so we demand dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections, senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed told reporters.
India and China immediately welcomed the new government congratulating Hasina after the stunning victory while most western nations endorsed the polls with caution noting the credible allegations of election irregularities.
Awami League and the Election Commission, however, have denied the allegations and the ruling party attributed the victory to Hasina's robust leadership that earned the country a record economic growth.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 8:05 PM IST

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