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Bangladesh: Awami League sweeps first poll under emergency

Anisur Rahman in Dhaka | August 05, 2008 09:12 IST

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Former prime minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League-backed candidates on Tuesday overwhelmingly won the mayoral elections as Bangladesh witnessed its first polls under emergency rules ahead of the scheduled general elections set for December this year.

Candidates fielded by the Awami League-led 14-party alliance bagged the mayoral positions in all the four major cities and won the polls in eight out of nine districts beating their nearest rivals of detained former premier Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

According to unofficial results Badruddin Kamran, Talukdar Abdul Khaleque, Khairuzzaman Liton and Shawkat Hossain Hiron were elected as mayors of north-eastern Sylhet, southwestern Khulna, north-western Rajshahi and south-western Barisal cities.

Of them, Kamran contended the polls from jail as he is facing a graft charge and defeated his nearest rival A F M Kamal of BNP with a huge margin.

Analysts widely see Monday's voting as a "test case" ahead of the general elections as a huge number of voters used their franchise in the key polls in 13 areas under strict vigil of elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion and army-led joint forces alongside police.

No incidents of violence or major irregularities were reported in the non-party local government polls while the country's independent Election Commission Chief A T M Shamsul Huda said they took the non-party local government election as a test and rectify the flaws in the forthcoming December general elections.

"We will review the experience we gained through this election and use it to stage a flawless and credible general election in December," Huda said.

"The culture of election, he said, appeared to have changed this time... the election atmosphere was better then anytime in the past and we expect the most competent people to be elected," Huda added.

Despite being a non-party elections, the Awami League-led 14-party alliance fielded their candidates while BNP candidates contended the polls defying the party decision to boycott it.

Witnesses and election officials said there was a huge turnout of female voters apparently because of the peaceful atmosphere as the polling started eight in the morning and ended at 4 in the afternoon without any interruption.

Under the Bangladesh Constitution, local government polls are non-political or non-party elections, but treated as politically crucial as candidates backed by major parties take part in the polls in individual capacities.

Earlier, on June 20 the interim government relaxed further the tough Emergency Power Rules allowing street marches and rallies in particular places as the independent EC announced schedules for local government polls in 13 areas on August 4.

This was the first election under the present interim government, installed with crucial military support following the January 11, 2007, proclamation of the state of emergency.

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