Dhaka, MARCH 4, REUTER: President Hossain Mohammad Ershad’s Jatiya party won a landslide victory in Bangladesh’s violence marred elections but the opposition which boycotted the polls vowed on Friday to topple him.

The election commission said Jatiya won 176 of the 219 seats so far declared from Thursday’s election for the 300seat parliament. Eighteen Jatiya members had already been returned unopposed giving the party 194 seats,

“This was a voter less election where the results were tailored beforehand,” opposition Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina said.

She said the 21opposition alliance would intensify its campaign of strikes and protests launched last November to force Ershad to resign.

Bangladesh nationalist party leader Begum Khaleda Zia said, the farcical election will be little Bangladesh in the eyes of the world,”

A western diplomat who toured polling station said, “This has been a mockery of an election and I think the world will recognize that.”

Despite the fraud, acknowledged by the government, diplomats said Ershad emerged stronger.

Ershad need not hurry to bring the main opposition coalition back into the political mainstream, the diplomat said, and “He is in the ascendancy and in control.”

Ershad, a former army general, has ruled this impoverished Moslem country of 110 million people since toppling a civilian government in a bloodless 1982 coup. He has refused to step down.

The Awami League and BNP called a general strike to disrupt the poll and urged the country’s 46 million electorate not to vote.

Officials said Jatiya members were leading in many constituencies. The combined opposition party (COP) won 13 seats, independents 10, the freedom party and Jatiya Samajtantnk Dal (SIRAJ) ‘one each.

Nearly 1,500 journalists walked out of newspaper and news agency offices on Friday night in protest against what they called official interference in election coverage.

“Journalists would not work in protest at official interference in objective reporting, continuous muzzling of the press and repressive actions against journalists,’ Reazuddin Ahmed, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, said.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 11, 1988