BANGLADESH
Parliamentary Chamber: Jatiya Sangsad

ELECTIONS HELD IN 1991

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Chamber:
  Jatiya Sangsad


Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  27 February 1991


Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in Parliament following premature dissolution of this body in December 1990. General elections had previously been held in March 1988.


Background and outcome of elections:

  In December 1990, President of the Republic Hossain Mohammad Ershad (Jatiya Party) - in office since 1983 - resigned after months of an anti-Government campaign by opposition groups and student protesters. He was succeeded as acting President by Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, who headed a neutral caretaker administration pending general elections, which were first set for 2 March 1991 and subsequently advanced.

Major contenders for the 300 directly-elected parliamentary seats were the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), leader of a seven-party alliance and headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, widow of former President Zia, and the Bangladesh Awami League of eight parties headed by Sheik Hasina Wazed, daughter of the country’s first Prime Minister. Both these groups had boycotted the previous (March 1988) elections.

The relatively peaceful campaign occasionally became intensely personal between the two main contenders. The Awami League called for a mixed economy, an elected government accountable to the people and a secular orientation, while the BNP advocated a more Islamic outlook, a presidential system and a free-market economy. Altogether there were some 2,800 candidates from nearly 80 parties.

On polling day, the centre-right BNP won 141 of the 300 general seats but the Awami League fared worse than expected with approximately 30% of the seats, nevertheless comfortably ahead of the previously ruling Jatiya (National) Party. International poll observers deemed the voting process generally free and fair. Analysts attributed Begum Khaleda’s victory largely to her uncompromising battle against military rule. On 20 March, she was sworn in as the first woman Prime Minister of Bangladesh, heading a BNP Council of Ministers and thereupon announcing that the primary task of her civilian Government would be the management and restoration of the ailing national economy. Itself short of a parliamentary majority, the BNP obtained pledges of support from smaller parties, including the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami. It thus, moreover, obtained 28 of the 30 indirectly-elected woman’s seats.

STATISTICS
Round no 1 (27 February 1991): Elections results  
Voters 62,289,556 (approx.52%)

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Bangladesh National Party (BNP) 169
Awami League 92
Jatiya Party 35
Jamat-e-Islami 18
Bangladesh Communist Party 5
Others 9
Independents 2

Comments:
  Taking into account subsequently held by-elections for 11 seats.

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 296
Women: 34


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Copyright 1991 Inter-Parliamentary Union