Democracy took a big step forward in Bangladesh with the successful completion of parliamentary elections. Bangladesh's Election Commission said the voting was free and fair.
Chief election commissioner Shamsul Huda said about 1,500 foreign and 200,000 local observers monitored the election process. Election officials say more than 70 percent of the country's 81 million voters participated in the election.
The final results have not yet been declared by the Election Commission, but it appears that the Awami League Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has won a large majority of the 300 parliamentary seats.
The new parliament will choose a civilian, ministerial government to replace the current military-backed caretaker government that took power in January 2007. The caretaker government, citing widespread violence and unrest, canceled elections scheduled for January 22, 2007.
The new government has some daunting challenges ahead – high food prices, global economic crisis, corruption, and terrorism. "Those elected must prepare to assume their roles as representatives of all the people of Bangladesh while unsuccessful candidates should continue to participate in the political process," said U.S. State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid. "Whether in government or in opposition, all political parties have an important role in helping to build a better future for Bangladesh," he said.
Mr. Duguid noted that the United States welcomes the success of Bangladesh's parliamentary elections. "We applaud the candidates and the voters for the manner in which they conducted themselves during the campaign and on Election Day," said Mr. Duguid. "All Bangladeshis can take pride in the success of these elections," he said.
The United States looks forward to a continuation of the reforms that have enjoyed wide popular support in Bangladesh. The U.S. will continue to support the people of Bangladesh and its new government as they begin a new chapter in their country's history.