Bangladeshi MPs take oaths to form new government
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Bangladeshi MPs take oaths to form new government

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s newly elected lawmakers took the oath of office Thursday, four days after an election marred by violence, low turnout and a boycott by the main opposition party.

The swearing-in ceremony broadcast live was held at the national parliament, with lawmakers from the ruling Awami League party and its main ally Jatiya Party taking their oaths.

Independents and others from smaller parties were sworn in separately Thursday, according to the Parliament Secretariat.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party won 232 of the 300 seats up for election in Sunday’s vote, although because of the opposition boycott about half the seats were uncontested. Hasina’s new government will name a Cabinet this weekend.

The moves come amid condemnation by opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who wants the election results voided.

Roushan Ershad, the wife of former military dictator H.M. Ershad is expected to be named as opposition leader. She is a leader of the Jatiya Party. Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy with a 350-seat house, and 50 seats are reserved for women who are selected by their parties.

Zia has termed the election a farce and has vowed to continue anti-government protests until Hasina steps down and a neutral caretaker government is appointed for a fresh election.

The election follows months of violence as opposition activists staged attacks, strikes and transportation blockades to try to stop the vote. Nearly 300 people have been killed since last February.

Also Thursday, New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement criticizing the government for wholesale arrests of opposition activists before and after the election.

“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, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The political gridlock has plunged Bangladesh deeper into turmoil and economic stagnation, and could lead to more violence in the deeply impoverished country of 160 million as it tries to reinvigorate its $20 billion garment industry.