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Hasina happy with voter turnout

Staff Correspondent

Sheikh Hasina Sheikh Hasina

The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, said on Monday that she was satisfied with the voter turnout whatever it was in Sunday’s 10th parliamentary polls.
‘I am happy that the people could exercise their franchise. Whatever the turnout the election had was enough,’ Hasina told a crowded press conference at her official residence Ganabhaban.
The prime minister made the comments in reply to question about the low turnout of voters in Sunday’s elections marked by widespread violence, stuffing of ballot boxes and boycott by opposition parties.
Hasina, also the president of ruling Awami League, expressed her satisfaction that people had ignored the opposition leader’s call not to cast a single vote in the elections.
The prime minister ruled out the idea of mid-term elections saying that she was only talking about the next elections, not about mid-term polls.
‘I repeatedly invited her [BNP chief Khaleda Zia] to join the elections but she did not. What is her position after boycotting the elections? She has lost everything. In the next parliament, she will no longer remain the opposition leader,’ Hasina said.
‘People have no support to their [opposition] movement. They are only causing sufferings to the people by enforcing hartals,’ she said.
Hasina, however, offered a peaceful dialogue with Khaleda to discuss the next parliamentary elections if the opposition party shunned the path of violence and severed relations with the war criminals and the Jamaat-e-Islami.
‘Issues relating to the next elections will be resolved through discussion. However, for this, we all have to be patient and stop all sorts of political violence,’ she said.
The prime minister said that the first task of her next government would be to protect the lives and property of people at any cost.
‘I am giving directives to the administration, army and the law enforcement agencies to work sincerely in checking all sorts of violence and terror with an iron hand in the aftermath of the elections. All necessary steps would be taken to restore normal life,’ she said.
About the acceptability of the elections and the question of ‘sanctions’ on Bangladesh, the prime minister said she did not believe any allegations could be raised about the elections.
 ‘Elections took place in many countries even in worse situation than this, and we have seen those. Those elections also got acceptability,’ she said asking why the question of sanctions on Bangladesh should be raised. ‘What is the fault of Bangladesh?’
She sought assistance from the international community to maintain peace, political stability and democratic and constitutional process in Bangladesh. 
The prime minister assured the victims of pre- and post-election violence and their families that the government would give them financial assistance and repair the educational institutions burnt by anti-election miscreants.
Hasina said that she would show ‘zero tolerance’ to extremism and terrorism and would go tough on the fundamentalists and people involved in disturbing communal harmony.
She conveyed her gratitude to the people for giving their mandate to the Awami League to govern the country for a second consecutive term. ‘Let me assure you that the pledges we have made in the election manifesto would be implemented.’
Asked whether the government would impose a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami as a ‘terror outfit’, Hasina said that her government would take a decision after the Appellate Division would deliver its judgment in a case seeking a ban on Jamaat. 
She said she would take a decision on the format of the government after holding discussions with her allies. ‘But whatever the format, there will an opposition in parliament,’ she added.  
About the alleged corruption by her cabinet members and lawmakers, the prime minister said that she would not protect any corrupt persons. ‘If anybody is found involved in corruption, the Anti-Corruption Commission will take action against them,’ she said.      
In a separate briefing with foreign journalists, Hasina said that the BNP had ‘missed the train’. She, however, rejected the need for proclamation of a state of emergency to deal with the current level of violence. ‘We have control of the situation as you can see with your own eyes and in future too we will be in control … So there is no possibility of [a state of] emergency now.’

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