Sheikh Hasina speaks during a media conference in Dhaka.
A day after rolling to victory in an election that was
boycotted by the main opposition party and marred by deadly
unrest, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held to her
stance that a fresh poll can be called only if her rivals halt
With the opposition already having called a 48-hour strike
and seven people killed in clashes on Monday, the crisis
showed no sign of easing, risking further unrest and damage
to the $22 billion garment industry, which accounts for 80
percent of the country's exports.
Hasina's Awami League ended with more than two-thirds of
seats in a contest that was shunned by international
observers as flawed and derided as a farce by the opposition
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). With fewer than half the
seats contested, the outcome was never in doubt.
"An election can happen any time when BNP comes for a
dialogue, but they must stop violence," Hasina, 64, said on
the lawn of her official residence.
Many BNP leaders are in jail or in hiding, and party chief
Begum Khaleda Zia says she is under virtual house arrest,
which the government denies.
"The ongoing crisis will not be resolved by keeping me
virtually confined to my house and carrying out oppression on
the opposition," Khaleda said in a statement on Monday,
urging a new election.
Hasina and Khaleda, 68, are bitter rivals who have alternated
as prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years.
The United States said it was "disappointed" by the election.
"The results ... do not appear to credibly express the will
of the Bangladeshi people," a statement from the US State
It called on the government and opposition to engage in
immediate dialogue to find a way to hold "free, fair,
peaceful, and credible" elections as soon as possible.
It condemned the violence and said citizens must be free to
express their views.
"Bangladesh's political leadership - and those who aspire to
lead - must do everything in their power to ensure law and
order and refrain from supporting and fomenting violence,
especially against minority communities, inflammatory
rhetoric, and intimidation," the statement said.
Ataur Rahman, a professor of political science at Dhaka
University, said the standoff imperils the momentum of five
years of robust growth in the impoverished nation of 160
The economy grew 6 percent in the fiscal year that ended in
June, and multilateral agencies expect growth of 5.5 to 5.8
percent in the current year.
"The longer the impasse, the longer Bangladesh suffers,"
Rahman said. "And unfortunately everyone understands this
other than our two top leaders."
The BNP denounces Hasina's scrapping of the practice of
having a caretaker government oversee elections. The Awami
League says the interim government system has proved a
With the BNP on the sidelines and voters worried about
violence, turnout was expected to have been low.
An election official, who declined to be identified because
the figure was not final, told Reuters that turnout was
nearly 40 percent. A monitoring organisation, the Election
Working Group, had put turnout at 30 percent, according to
the Dhaka Tribune.
In the last election, in 2008, a record 83 percent of voters
cast ballots. In a 1996 election boycotted by the Awami
League, 21 percent voted.
The European Union, a duty free market for nearly 60 percent
of Bangladesh's garment exports, refused to send election
observers, as did the United States and the Commonwealth, a
grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.
"It is ... disappointing that voters in more than half the
constituencies did not have the opportunity to express their
will at the ballot box and that turnout in most other
constituencies was low," Sayeeda Warsi, a senior British
Foreign Office minister, said in a statement.
Five people were killed on the outskirts of Dhaka on Monday
in a clash between supporters of rival parties, with two more
fatalities in rural areas, continuing a spate of violence in
which 18 people were killed during polling on Sunday and more
than 100 in the run-up to the election.