Parliamentary Chamber: Jatiya Sangsad


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  Jatiya Sangsad

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  15 February 1996
12 June 1996

Purpose of elections:

  Polling was for all the seats in Parliament in the aftermath of the controversial general elections of February 1996 (see below). Parliament had been dissolved on 30 March.

Background and outcome of elections:

  The June 1996 general elections were preceded by polling four months earlier, on 15 February. The road to this earlier vote was paved by dissolution of Parliament on 24 November 1995 by President of the Republic Abdur Rahman Biswas in response to the refusal of opposition groups to participate in by-elections scheduled for 15 December. In December 1994, numerous seats had become vacant when these same groups had left the legislature, accusing the Government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia (Bangladesh Nationalist Party - BNP) of rigging earlier by-elections and of widespread corruption. They asked the Prime Minister to resign and hand over power to a neutral caretaker government which would oversee the next general elections. As this was refused, the major opposition parties (Awami League, Jatiya Party and Jamaat-e-Islami) organised crippling general strikes and boycotted the poll.

First scheduled for 18 January, voting day was postponed twice before finally taking place in February. It was marred by violence, a low turnout (10-15% of the approximately 56 million electorate), and new allegations of vote rigging by the BNP's rivals, led by Shaikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League - daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's first Prime Minister. International observers themselves had reservations about the procedures followed. According to controversial results released in late February, the BNP won an overwhelming number of the 300 contested seats. Opposition forces rejected the legitimacy of the legislature.

In late March, following a sustained campaign of strikes and a non-co-operation movement by her rivals, Begum Zia stepped down, the June election date was announced and Parliament was dissolved. On 3 April, a caretaker government headed by former Chief Justice Mohammad Habibur Rahman was sworn in.

As a result of these events, the run-up to the elections stood in sharp contrast to the preceding ones. Nearly 3000 candidates and all major parties were in contention. While the campaign saw sporadic violence, polling day itself was relatively peaceful and marked by a record turnout. Final results gave the centrist Awami League a total of 146 seats - 30 more than the BNP but just five short of absolute majority. Third place went to the centre-right Jatiya (National) Party (JP) of former military President Hussain Mohammed Ershad, himself elected although jailed. The fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, however, stumbled badly in retaining only three of its seats. While there were some allegations of irregularities, foreign observers from 14 countries deemed the election well-run and generally free and fair.

In the context of this overall outcome, Shaikh Wajed was sworn in as Prime Minister, along with her Cabinet, on 23 June. In Parliament, the Awami League has the support of the JP's 32 members.

Round no 1 (12 June 1996): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 56,000,000 (approx)
Voters 74% (approx)

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Awami League 146
Bangladesh National Party (BNP) 116
Jatiya Dal 32
Jamaat-e-Islami 3
Others 3

  excluding the 30 seats reserved for women; 27 of these seats are held by Awami League

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 300
Women: 30

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Copyright 1996 Inter-Parliamentary Union