Bangladesh's Hasina works on cabinet choices

Sheikh Hasina looks set for another chance at leading Bangladesh after her Awami League won a victory in a parliamentary election.

Bangladesh's Hasina works on cabinet choices

The head of Bangladesh's winning parliamentary alliance consulted party leaders on Thursday over cabinet choices while officials said the outgoing interim government would likely transfer power next week.

Sheikh Hasina, a former prime minister, looks set for another chance at leading the impoverished country after her Awami League and its allies won an overwhelming victory in a parliamentary election on Monday.

The poll returned the South Asia nation of 140 million people to democracy after two years of emergency rule under an interim authority that took over at a time of political chaos.

One of Hasina's party leaders, who declined to be identified, said she would likely avoid picking old faces for the cabinet and select some new and younger ministers.

"This will reflect her desire for change," the source said.

Another official said the army-backed interim government aimed to transfer power late next week. Hasina's Awami League said it wanted the transition to be completed before Jan. 10.

The Awami League and its allies won more than two-thirds of parliament's 300 seats in Bangladesh's first election in seven years. A coalition led by Hasina's bitter rival, Begum Khaleda Zia, won just 31 seats.

Khaleda has rejected the election result, claiming the vote was rigged, but so far there has been little sign that her supporters will protest on the streets. International monitors have said the election was fair and credible.

It was the worst election showing for Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which ruled the country for two five-year terms over 15 years until 2006.

Hasina on Wednesday said she was willing to share power with Khaleda and sought her cooperation in running the country.

"Her experience can help us to govern and move forward," Hasina said.

Not just words

A senior opposition party leader would not rule out cooperation. In the past, losing parties have often resorted to strikes and street protests that can turn violent -- and provide a rationale for political intervention by the military.

Analysts said they believed Hasina's offer was not just rhetoric. They also urged Khaleda to accept the election result.

"I hope Khaleda will learn to accept the people's mandate, especially after the monitors have said the vote was of an international standard," said Abul Momen, a columnist and political analyst.

Hasina has said there were many challenges ahead, such as curbing poverty, fighting militancy and boosting the economy. Some 45 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

She has already met the chief of the interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, to discuss plans for the transfer of power.

Hasina said she was ready to offer senior parliamentary posts to Khaleda and her party, and even a few ministerial positions as well, if they cooperated with her new government.

Analysts said such cooperation would be a plus for the business climate and also ease fears the military might try to take over again.

Army generals ruled the Indian Ocean coastal state for 15 years until 1990, when Hasina and Khaleda jointly forced the last military dictator out through a "people's revolt".

They then alternated in power for 15 years and became bitter foes, earning them the nickname the "battling begums".

Reuters
Last Mod: 01 Ocak 2009, 16:26
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