Begum Khaleda Zia
Bangladesh Table of Contents
The center-right BNP won a plurality of seats and formed a coalition government with the Islamic fundamentalist party Jamaat-I-Islami, with Khaleda Zia, widow of Ziaur Rahman, obtaining the post of Prime Minister.
Only four parties had more than 10 members elected to the 1991 parliament: The BNP, led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia; the AL, led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed; the Jamaat-I-Islami (JI), led by Golam Azam; and the Jatiyo Party (JP), led by acting chairman Mizanur Rahman Choudhury while its founder, former President Ershad, served out a prison sentence on corruption charges.
The electorate approved still more changes to the constitution, formally re-creating a parliamentary system and returning governing power to the office of the prime minister, as in Bangladesh's original 1972 constitution. In October 1991, members of parliament elected a new head of state, President Abdur Rahman Biswas.
In March 1994, controversy over a parliamentary by-election, which the opposition claimed the government had rigged, led to an indefinite boycott of parliament by the entire opposition. The opposition also began a program of repeated general strikes to press its demand that Khaleda Zia's government resign and a caretaker government supervise a general election.
Efforts to mediate the dispute under the auspices of the Commonwealth Secretariat failed. After another attempt at a negotiated settlement failed narrowly in late December 1994, the opposition resigned en masse from parliament. The opposition then continued a campaign of marches, demonstrations, and strikes in an effort to force the government to resign. The opposition--including the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina Wajed - pledged to boycott national elections scheduled for February 15, 1996.
In February, Khaleda Zia was re-elected by a landslide in voting boycotted and denounced as unfair by the three main opposition parties. In March 1996, following escalating political turmoil, the sitting parliament enacted a constitutional amendment to allow a neutral caretaker government to assume power and conduct new parliamentary elections; Former Chief Justice Mohammed Habibur Rahman was named Chief Advisor (a position equivalent to Prime Minister) in the interim government. New parliamentary elections were held in June 1996 and were won by the Awami League; party leader Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister.
She was elected Prime Minister, for the third time in October 2001, in a free and fair election conducted by a neutral and non-partisan caretaker government and monitored by observers from all over the world. She led a four-party alliance to win a landslide two-thirds majority in the parliamentary polls.
Bangladesh Table of Contents
Photo: Thierry Charlier/Camera Press/Globe Photos, Inc.