Bangladesh election: 16 reported dead as opposition rejects 'farcical' vote

Geraldine Edwards
December 31, 2018

People across the country went to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to give Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a third consecutive term, in an election seen as a referendum on what critics call Hasina's increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

Hasina's ruling Awami League party and its allies won 288 seats in the 300-seat parliament, with the main opposition securing only six seats, Election Commission secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said.

Dr Kamal Hossain-led Oikya Front, in which BNP is the biggest component, rejected the election at 8pm Sunday, terming it a farcical one, and demanded for a fresh election. Hindustan Times delivers the news across all social media platforms, on the web, and at your doorstep.

Deadly violence and bitter rivalry that marred the election campaign continued as voting began, even as authorities imposed tight security with 600,000 troops, police and other security forces deployed across the country.

While Fakhrul said Sunday's one - the way election was held - was a testimony that polls in Bangladesh can not be fair if held under partisan government, Awami League's Election Steering Committee Co-Chairman HT Imam said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had proved that holding inclusive election is possible under incumbent government, and therefore she deserves all the credits.

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The BNP-led opposition alliance on Sunday accused Hasina's party of using stuffed ballot boxes and other illegal means to fix the result, which was to be officially announced by the election commission on Monday.

Hossain said a few hours after voting ended that about 100 candidates from the alliance had withdrawn from their races during the day.

However, voters in provincial areas reported intimidation. "Barring some unwanted incidents, the polling so far was smooth and peaceful", Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda said.

The opposition fielded candidates for all 299 parliamentary seats that were contested.

The normally traffic-clogged streets of the capital were largely empty because of a ban on vehicles for everyone except election observers and journalists. The two women have alternated in power for most of the past three decades but Khaleda has been in jail since February on corruption charges that she says are politically motivated. Atiar Rahman said he was beaten by ruling party activists in the central district of Narayanganj. Media reports said across the country more than 40 out of 287 opposition candidates in fray pulled out alleging vote rigging.

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The opposition said the unrest was stirred up to deter voters, and presiding officers reported a low turnout across the country. The build-up to the election has already been marred by violence.

According to the final results, Hasina herself won with an astounding vote count - 1,000 times more than all her rivals put together. "Whether we win or not, we will always work towards the development of the nation".

Both Ms Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's first president, and Ms Zia have been in and out of power - and prison - for decades.

In Zia's absence, opposition parties formed a coalition led by Hossain. At least a dozen people were killed in campaign-related clashes.

The United States has been urging Bangladesh to ensure the vote is free and fair.

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Human Rights Watch and other global groups said the crackdown created a climate of fear which could prevent opposition supporters from casting ballots.

The Bangladesh government has made sure the election is participated by all parties, Gowher Rizvi, global affairs adviser to the prime minister, has told foreign observers.

Her government was criticised this year for its heavy handling of weeks of major student protests that brought Dhaka to a standstill.

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