Monday, 18 November 2013 16:53
DHAKA: A new Bangladesh cabinet was sworn in Monday to form an "all-party" interim government to oversee parliamentary elections in January, despite a boycott from the opposition which rejected the move as a farce.
Six ministers and two deputy ministers were sworn in, setting the stage for new street battles in the politically unstable country as the 18-party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) condemned the move and vowed more protests.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed an all-party election cabinet last month in a speech to the nation but the BNP and its Islamist allies staunchly rejected it, demanding instead a neutral caretaker government to conduct polls.
The new ministers -- including two from the ruling Awami League and five from its ally the Jatiya Party -- were sworn in by President Abdul Hamid at his palace in a brief ceremony aired live by state television.
Hasina "has called it an all-party government. It's a polls-time cabinet", Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told AFP ahead of the swearing-in.
But BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed slammed the new cabinet as a "farce".
"She (Hasina) calls it an all-party government. But what we've seen is only members of her grand alliance being sworn in as ministers. We won't go to the polls under this government," he told AFP.
Ahmed said the party and its allies would "step up" their protests across the country in reaction to Hasina's move to hold "one-sided elections".
Bangladesh has been reeling under a spate of violence since late October after the opposition launched a new wave of protests to force Hasina to resign and make way for a technocrat-led interim government to oversee elections.
At least 28 people have died in the clashes between the opposition supporters and the ruling party activists and police.
US assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal arrived in the Bangladeshi capital at the weekend to hold talks with Hasina and BNP leader Khaleda Zia in a bid to break the deadlock.
Hasina scrapped the caretaker system to hold elections, arguing that it enabled the army to seize power in a country which has witnessed at least 19 coups since 1975.
Hasina has rejected Zia's demand for her to step down, calling it unconstitutional.
Bangladesh has been ruled alternately by Hasina and Zia since 1991, apart from when a military-backed government ran the country between 2007 and 2008.Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2013