Bangaldesh's Awami League, which is set to form the government after sweeping the December 29 polls, will name Zillur Rahman as the presidential candidate, prime minister-elect Sheikh Hasina said, setting aside an apparent pre-poll deal reached with key ally H M Ershad.
"The opinion of the Awami League Parliamentary Party is that senior party leader Zillur Rahman will be the next president of the country" when incumbent Iajuddin Ahmed quits, Hasina said on Saturday night after her party MPs were sworn in.
She said Rahman, who is in his early 80s, was chosen as deputy leader of the National Assembly, a position he would quit when he goes to Bangabhaban, the Presidential palace.
"He (Rahman) is a senior member of our party. We want to recognise him first for his long time contribution to our party as well as the political arena of Bangladesh. He has played an important role in all our struggles including the (1952) language movement," Hasina said.
The decision came as a major ally of the Awami League-led grand alliance, Jatiya Party chief and former president H M Ershad, demanded presidency in line with an "understanding" he had reached with Hasina ahead of the earlier postponed polls slated for January 22 last year.
Jatiya Party sources said that in a meeting ahead of the oath-taking ceremony of the new lawmakers yesterday Ershad took a tough stance saying his party might not support the government if he was not made President.
In reply to a query about Ershad's demand, Hasina said "let's see what we can do for him. He will be in the Parliament."
"(But) Zillur Rahman is one of the country's senior most politician who has contributions to country's all democratic campaigns since the 1952 Language Movement .... he has the priority to become the President," Hasina said.