Several people killed in clashes at Bangladesh elections

Dec 31, 2018, 02:18
Several people killed in clashes at Bangladesh elections

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was the first voter at the Dhaka City College centre in the capital where her lawyer nephew and party candidate Fazle Nur Taposh was a contender.

Hasina's alliance easily crossed the 151 seats required to form a government, according to Channel 24, which is compiling results from around the country.

He told reporters at a media briefing telecast live that the opposition calls on "the Election Commission to declare this election void and demand a fresh election under a nonpartisan government".

Mr. Alamgir, however, asked his party candidates to stay in the race until the voting ended while NUF convenor Hossain urged voters to "restore democracy" and exercise their franchise. He said they would hold a meeting Monday to decide their next course.

More than 61 percent of the opposition alliance's 287 candidates face criminal cases, compared with only around 7 percent of the ruling party's 299, according to affidavits filed by candidates at the Election Commission that were analysed by the Dhaka-based civil society group Shujan.

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

Both Ms Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's first president, and Ms Zia have been in and out of power - and prison - for decades. The opposition parties have alleged that thousands of its leaders and activists have been arrested to weaken them. Awami League supporters had set up help desks on the street outside the polling station for voters to find their registration serial numbers.

Bangladesh's telecoms regulator also ordered the country's mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday "to prevent the spread of rumours" that could trigger unrest during the election, the 11th since Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971.

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"Some stray incidents have happened".

Bangladesh election commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman said the body had "received a few allegations of irregularities" and was investigating.

One man told us that several members of his extended family found that their votes had already been cast when they went to the polling booth. But its leaders, candidates such as Khan, and workers say they are facing violent attacks and intimidation, including shootings and arrests, that have stunted their ability to campaign.

"We hope there will be a peaceful atmosphere", he said.

Bangladesh is a country of 165 million but turnout was reported to be low with the prime minister predicted to win so easily.

Almost one million security personnel including army, police and the Border Guard Bangladesh have already been deployed to ensure security in the election.

Hasina said the issue of her arch-rival Zia is a matter of court.

"I believe the people of Bangladesh [.] will give us another opportunity to serve them so that we can maintain our upward trend of development, and take Bangladesh forward as a developing country", said Hasina.

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Hasina embarked on a two-story, 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) bridge tapping government coffers rather than the World Bank's proffered loans.

In Zia's absence, opposition parties formed a coalition led by Hossain.

One of the voters there, Haji Abdul Malek Mia, a 74-year-old father of five sons, said he wanted to see someone in power who would offer development.

More than half of the 300 parliamentary seats were uncontested. At least a dozen people were killed in campaign-related clashes.

Human Rights Watch and other global groups have decried the crackdown, saying it has created a climate of fear which could prevent supporters of opposition parties from casting their ballots.

The United States raised concerns about the credibility of the election while the United Nations called for greater efforts to make the vote fair.

Her government was criticised earlier this year for its heavy handling of weeks of massive student protests over the abolition of job quotas and poor safety standards on Bangladesh's unsafe roads.

Rights groups have since accused her administration of stifling freedom of speech by toughening a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of dissenters.

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