DHAKA: Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as Bangladesh’s prime minister for a record fourth term on Monday after an election victory marred by claims of widespread rigging.
Hasina’s new Cabinet consists of 47 ministers of them 27 set to serve as ministers for the first time in their political careers.
The Cabinet has 24 ministers, 19 state ministers and three deputy ministers. President Abdul Hamid administered the oath in a ceremony at Bangabhaban, the president’s official residence.
Her ruling Awami League (AL) party and its allies won the Dec. 30 elections by a landslide, securing 288 seats in the 300-seat Parliament compared to just seven for the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led (BNP) alliance Jatio Oikya Front (JOF).
Rejecting the election results, the opposition alliance accused the ruling party of vote rigging and called for a re-election. Opposition members did not take the oath as members of Parliament.
Rasheda K. Chowdhury, an adviser to the former caretaker government said: “The ruling AL had presented a very good election manifesto. If the new government can control corruption in different sectors, that will be a great achievement.”
Chowdhury urged the new government to take steps to bridge the growing gap between the rich and poor in the country.
Pinning hope on the new faces in the Cabinet, she said most of them have vast experience of working at the grassroots level, which will help them in solving many issues facing the masses.
“They may lack experience, but with good intentions and sincere efforts they can overcome their limitations,” she said.
However, the inclusion of only one woman as a full member in the Cabinet made her a little upset. She said more female representatives would have helped the country in expanding women’s role in development.
Transparency International Bangladesh’s Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman also called on the new setup to root out corruption from society.
“During the election campaign, the AL promised zero tolerance on corruption and now the nation wants to see it implemented,” Zaman said.
He said there are some institutional laws in the country, which tend to scuttle the freedom of expression. He said to ensure “inclusive development,” the new government needs to revisit those laws.
Dr. Gobinda Chakraborty of Dhaka University said: “To attain sustainable development, the government needs to work on good governance. At the same time, we need to work on development issues beyond infrastructure and social indexes to reduce social inequality.”
“For the new government, democracy itself is a big challenge. They need to make a functional Parliament which is more vibrant,” said Chakraborty, a renowned political scientist in the country.
Dr. Dilara Chowdhury a political scientist at Jahangirnagar University stressed the need for establishing “rule of law.”
True progress cannot be measured in terms of gross development product, she added.
“The right of education, health, security, human rights — all these are very much related with the development of a country,” Chowdhury said.
“Development and democracy is a part and parcel and cannot be separated. Without democracy there cannot be any sustainable development,” she said.