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MPs take oath

Agence France-Presse . Dhaka / New Age Online

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury administered the oath to the newly elected 283 lawmakers in the 10th parliamentary elections. The one-sided election was condemned by critics as a farce with feuding political leaders still locked in a deadly confrontation. – New Age Photo.Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury administered the oath to the newly elected 283 lawmakers in the 10th parliamentary elections. The one-sided election was condemned by critics as a farce with feuding political leaders still locked in a deadly confrontation. – New Age Photo.

Bangladesh's newly elected lawmakers took their parliamentary oath on Thursday after an election condemned by critics as a farce and with feuding political leaders still locked in a deadly confrontation.
Led by current prime minister Sheikh Hasina, members of parliament from the ruling Awami League and lawmakers from her allies were sworn in, parliament's spokesman Joynal Abedin told AFP.
"Only a few MPs could not take the oath in time. They'll be sworn in later today," Abedin said.    
The Awami League won 232 of 300 seats in Sunday's parliamentary polls, which were boycotted by the opposition and hit by the deadliest election violence in the country's history.
Analysts say the new assembly could be short-lived since Hasina faces a worsening political crisis and mounting calls for new polls from the international community and the opposition.   
The opposition, led by two-times former prime minister Khaleda Zia who is under de facto house arrest, called for a non-stop blockade of roads, rail and waterways from Wednesday to topple the government.
The blockade was only partially imposed in the capital, with many activists behind bars after a crackdown by security forces in the weeks before Sunday's election.
Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party called the weekend vote a farce and the United States said it lacked credibility.
A total of 153 Awami League members or allies were elected unopposed as a result of an opposition boycott, imposed over Hasina's decision to change the electoral system.
Hasina, daughter of the country's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was later elected the leader of parliament and would now form a government by Sunday, her spokesman Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury told AFP.  
"Her cabinet is expected to take oath at 3.30pm Sunday," he added.
Hasina has vowed to bring stability after crippling opposition protests that have left around 180 dead since October.
At least 26 people were killed during the election, making it the bloodiest vote in Bangladesh's 43-year history, while hundreds of opposition supporters torched or trashed polling stations.
After two weeks confined to her home, security was relaxed outside Zia's house on Wednesday night, but it was unclear whether she would be allowed to leave.  
New York-based group Human Rights Watch Thursday accused the government of arbitrary arrests of "perhaps hundreds of" opposition party members and said the crackdown continued even after the elections
"While in some cases the government has acted appropriately to stop violence by some opposition forces, this spate of arrests is part of a pattern of weakening critics, limiting  dissent, and consolidating ruling party power," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director.
"The Awami League claims that it is the leading democratic party in Bangladesh, but there is nothing democratic about this kind of widespread crackdown on critics."
Zia has demanded the polls be declared null and void and that new elections be held under a neutral government headed by a caretaker leader.    
Washington has led international pressure for a swift re-run of the elections that would include all the major parties, brushing aside Hasina's insistence her victory was legitimate.
The United States called for a vote that would "credibly express the will" of the people and asked the parties "to engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold as soon as possible elections that are free, fair, peaceful, and credible".
UN leader Ban Ki-moon urged the two parties "to resume meaningful dialogue" urgently to create "an inclusive political process".




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