Deaths, vote-rigging claims hit Bangladesh election day

Deaths, vote-rigging claims hit Bangladesh election day

Deaths, vote-rigging claims hit Bangladesh election day

A third straight term for Hasina's Awami League was widely expected, but the main opposition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) rejected the election and called for a fresh vote in the country of 165 million people.

Hasina would become Prime Minister for an unprecedented fourth term after AL secured win in 259 constituencies of the 300-seat parliament, according to results released by the Election Commission for 298 seats, bdnews24.com reported.

Opposition Oikya Front chief Kamal Hossain called the polls a "farce" and demanded a fresh vote citing widespread polling frauds.

This is despite the deployment of 600,000 security officials, including army and paramilitary forces, across the country.

Scores of opposition workers were arrested in the months before the election on charges that the opposition said were "fictitious", and many said they were attacked by ruling party activists, crippling their ability to campaign.

Awami League's Joint Secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak said the opposition had been rejected by voters and that its refusal to accept voting results was "not unusual".

This was the first election in which the BNP campaigned without its leader Khaleda Zia - Hasina's arch rival.

Opposition leader Hossain said he would meet with alliance members on Monday to decide their next step.

Speaking to reporters after visiting a polling station, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar admitted that he was unable to find opposition polling agents there.

Bangladesh election commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman told AFP the body had "received a few allegations of irregularities" and was investigating. Media reports said across the country more than 40 out of 287 opposition candidates in fray pulled out alleging vote rigging. The two women have alternated in power for most of the last three decades, but Khaleda has been in jail since February on corruption charges that she says are politically motivated.

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He said the ruling party would reconsider a tough new media law it introduced and another it has tightened if it retains power. "They told me not to bother, "We'll cast your vote on your behalf", he told AFP.

The mobile blackout comes on the eve of a major national election on Sunday that has resulted in violence and crackdowns on protests, and follows on other temporary shutdowns of 3G and 4G services throughout Bangladesh earlier this week, per the Straits Times.

The opposition said the unrest was stirred up to deter voters, and presiding officers reported a low turnout across the country. "Sheikh Hasina!" on a deserted street in Dhaka as election results started trickling in.

"Hasina's use of the state machinery to subjugate the opposition virtually ensures her electoral victory", said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, a South Asia analyst for New York-based Eurasia Group.

While rights groups have sounded the alarms about the erosion of Bangladesh's democracy, Hasina has promoted a different narrative, highlighting an ambitious economic agenda that has propelled Bangladesh past larger neighbours Pakistan and India by some development measures.

In Ms Zia's absence, opposition parties formed a coalition led by Mr Hossain, an 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer and former member of Ms Hasina's Awami League party. The Awami League's landslide victory was met with violence that left at least 22 people dead.

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

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

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

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