06/18/2010, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Awami League defeated in Chittagong

by William Gomes
Bangladesh Nationalist Party-backed candidate gets 480,000 votes and wins the election. Police and BNP activists clash, with 30 people hurt. National strike against ruling party set for 27 June.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Mustaqim Manzur Ahmed, a candidate backed by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has become the new mayor of the port city of  Chittagong, with 480,000 votes, 100,000 more than his closest rival, who was supported by the Awami League (AL). This is the first defeat for the ruling party since it came to power two years ago.

For local observers, the mayoralty race in Chittagong represents a test for the country’s two major parties. The Awami League is a secular party founded in 1949 that led the country (then called East Pakistan) to independence from Pakistan in 1971 under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The BNP was founded in 1978 as the political expression of self-conscious Muslims.

The elections in Chittagong saw clashes between police and BNP activists, resulting in about 30 people hurt.

Members of the BNP have also accused the Awami League of election fraud during the vote count, after its candidate Mohiuddin Chowdhury and his supporters came in great numbers to the building where counting was underway.

After threatening to remove Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed from power in case of vote rigging, the BNP announced it would hold a national strike against the AL administration on 27 June in protest against persecution and the disappearance of some of the political opponents of the ruling party.

For the first time, voting in the Chittagong municipal elections was done with electronic voting machines. About 79 machines were used in 14 polling stations.

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