Sheikh Hasina sworn as Bangladesh PM

It will be Hasina's second time in the office.

Sheikh Hasina sworn as Bangladesh PM

Sheikh Hasina, the winner of Bangladesh's parliamentary election last month, was sworn in as the South Asian country's prime minister on Tuesday, ending two years of rule by an army-backed interim government.

It will be her second time in the office.

"I have just assumed a very big responsibility," she said in brief comments after her swearing-in. "My priorities will include ensuring law and order, and bringing (commodity) prices down."

President Iajuddin Ahmed administered the oath of office to Hasina, 61, and her new ministers at a ceremony at the presidential palace attended by political leaders, high civil and military officials, diplomats and other dignitaries.

Hasina's Awami League and its allies won more than two-thirds of parliament's 300 seats in the Dec. 29 election, with just 31 going to her bitter rival Begum Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

Hasina and Khaleda had alternated in power for 15 years ending in 2006, with Khaleda winning two five-year terms and Hasina one.

The period was marked by frequent street protests, strikes and violence as whichever party was in opposition resorted to confrontational politics. The interim government took over amid violence in January 2007, cancelling an election due that month.

Since her victory Hasina has said she hopes for cooperation from all quarters, including the opposition.

Many Bangladeshis as well as foreign friends of the country hope her government will be stable enough to bring foreign investment and aid, and tackle the many serious problems facing the impoverished country of more than 140 million people.

Khaleda sent a team of her BNP's newly elected legislators to attend Hasina's swearing in, although they themselves have not yet taken their oath from the speaker of parliament.

They will do so in a couple of days, BNP officials said on Tuesday.

Hasina picked her ministers from major parties in her "grand alliance" and dropped many stalwarts of her own party, including some of the most powerful ministers in her previous government.

She named 23 ministers and eight state ministers in her new government and will announce their portfolios later on Tuesday or on Wednesday, officials said.

"Her choices look fine to me. Some people may raise the issue of most ministers having no previous experience but this is not a very big deal," said professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, an economist and political analyst.

"What is needed for good governance is people with clean reputations and the ability to perform," he told reporters.

In the Bangladesh system ministers can be named and sworn in ahead of the announcement of their specific portfolios.

"We will have to wait to see how those left out react to her decisions," said Shahinul Islam, a young Awami leader, after the swearing-in.

Earlier, Hasina named senior party leader Zillur Rahman, who headed the Awami League in her absence, to become the next president, a mainly ceremonial position but also the constitutional head of the Bangladesh armed forces.

Reuters
Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2009, 18:14
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