Allies drive hard bargain with Hasina, Zia for Bangladesh poll


Dhaka : Parties of Bangladesh’s rival women politicians, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, have been left with fewer seats to contest in the Dec 29 parliamentary poll after allies drove hard bargains to wrest more seats than before.

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Hours after staging an angry walk-out from Hasina’s home and announcing a split in the “grand alliance”, former military ruler H.M. Ershad returned to get an unprecedented 48 seats for his Jatiyo Party (JP), up from 32 seats offered earlier.

The settlement came at the 11th hour of candidacy withdrawal following two days’ dramatic events centering seat sharing between the two components of the alliance, The Daily Star said Friday.

It quoted unnamed political sources to say that Hasina agreed to accept JP’s demands “in the greater interests of the grand alliance”. There will still be three seats where the two will clash.

Having driven a hard bargain with the Awami League (AL), both Ershad and his wife Rowshan will be contesting from two seats each.

The AL also shared nine seats with the components in the 14-party alliance, which now is a nine-party coalition.

Facing similar problems, Zia’S Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) too has had to concede 34 seats to its major electoral ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, even as the two could not agree on four seats where they will clash.

Zia’s four-party alliance, called the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), is composed of Islamists.

The AL will now contest 245 seats and the BNP 256 seats. Four of the BNP candidates were barred by the Election Commission from contesting. The final tally after the process of withdrawals has 1,597 candidates for 300 seats.

In a situation where winner takes all, the constitution allows for nomination of 30 women to parliament.

The ninth general election now underway was called off in January last year after weeks of political turmoil.

A large number of contestants, including the two women leaders, are those who have been on bail after being detained on graft and other charges by the present military-backed caretaker government.