WASHINGTON - The United States will continue to work with the government of Sheikh Hasina, who was sworn in as Bangladesh prime minister Sunday, despite Washington’s reservations about the credibility of the recent parliamentary elections, a State Department official has said, as a leading American newspaper called the event the “beginning of a risky attempt at one-party rule.” “We continue to work of course we will, but at the same time making clear our concerns with the election,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf, said in response to a question whether the US recognized Hasina’s government because of the disputed polls.  Soon after the Bangladesh elections on January 5, the United States had voiced its concerns over the credibility of the elections and called for fresh polls that that are free and fair and reflects the mandate of the people.

“We obviously work with governments who are elected, but in regards to these elections themselves, we have already made clear our disappointment with the elections, which in our view did not credibly reflect the will of the Bangladeshi people. Since almost all of the seats of the new parliament weren’t contested or had only token opposition,” Harf told reporters at the daily press briefing. “So we’ll make clear our concerns when we have them,” she added.

Meanwhile, a dispatch from Dhaka in The New York Times noted, “For the past 20 years, control of Bangladesh has been largely in the hands of the ‘two ladies,’ as they are known: Begum Khaleda Zia, now in opposition, and Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister.

“Stubborn, autocratic and very popular, they have each won two of the past four elections, and their rivalry has contributed to a kind of balance. This past week may mark the end of their coexistence - and the beginning of a risky attempt at one-party rule,” the Times said, adding that prolonged turmoil here could have profound consequences.

The newspaper said that both women took a major gamble as the election approached.

“Mrs Zia gambled by boycotting the elections and by relying on violent street agitation to advance her agenda.  Hasina gambled by holding an election that excluded the major opposition party, betting that the international condemnation would not be harsh enough to force her to back down and hold a new vote, as most Western governments are urging.

“It seems now that Hasina’s bet paid off. No one is talking seriously about new elections in the near future. But in a country with a tradition of stormy protest, few observers expect the new arrangement to be a stable one, especially if Zia sees continued strikes as her only defense. Neither woman is ready to back down, and, in their elegant homes, both seem oddly cut off from the turmoil outside.”

Diplomatic cables sent from the embassy in Dhaka, released by WikiLeaks, are a litany of exasperation: “Bangladesh Political Rerun: The Sheikh Hasina-Khaleda Zia Show is Back on Air” and “Zia Rehashes Old Complaints About Awami League.”

The grievances are, in a way, an outgrowth of dynastic politics. Both women were thrust into politics by violence.  Zia was the tongue-tied wife of Bangladesh’s first military ruler when he was killed in 1981.

Advertising Hasina was the daughter of Bangladesh’s first president, studying abroad when, in 1975, a group of soldiers drove a tank into her house and shot a dozen members of her family, including her 10-year-old brother.

The Times wrote, “The two women have barely ever met in person, and when they try to conduct state business, rage over the past leaps up to blind them. In 2007, Bangladeshi generals grew so frustrated by the friction that they jailed both women on corruption charges, a plan that was known as the “minus two solution.”

“But within two years the two were out, greeted by cheering crowds...

“With the swearing in of a new Parliament that does not include the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Hasina will effectively introduce one-party rule in Bangladesh, and Zia will lose the trappings of power she has enjoyed for two decades. Vicious outbreaks of opposition violence are being reported, and the government, too, has taken a hard line, arresting top leaders of the party and charging thousands of people with taking part in election-related violence.”