Bangladesh PM wins new term in vote marred by violence

World News

Dhaka, Dec 31  Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a new term with a landslide victory, the country’s Election Commission said on Monday, in an election marred by deadly violence and allegations of widespread rigging.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) party won a landslide of 288 votes out of the 300 parliamentary seats contested in the Sunday election, surpassing its previous election wins and making her the Prime Minister for an unprecedented fourth term.

The opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of jailed former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia took just seven seats and condemned the vote as “farcical” marred by violence, intimidation and vote rigging claims, bdnews24.com reported.

Bangladesh’s Parliament has 350 seats in total, 50 of which are reserved for women and allotted proportional to the overall vote. 

The BNP’s Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir called it “a cruel joke with the nation” and said that the party’s decision to stay away from the general election five years ago was not wrong. 

“The so-called participatory election has caused long-term damage to the nation,” he said, adding, that “many think that the BNP was wrong not to join the 2014 election. Today’s election has proved that it was not a wrong decision at all.”

There were claims of “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats being contested.

The opposition Jatiya Oikya Front also rejected the vote and demanded a fresh election, accusing the AL of stuffing ballot boxes. “We urge the Election Commission to void this farcical result immediately,” the alliance’s chief Kamal Hossain said.

“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible.”

Hasina’s government has also been accused of human rights abuses during the election. At least 17 people have been killed in clashes between ruling party supporters and the opposition on Sunday.

The military was deployed across the country to try to prevent the violence seen during the polls, which were tarnished by a low turnout and boycotted by the largest opposition group and its allies.

The Awami League, led by Hasina, has been in power since 2009 and won the last election in January 2014 with a resounding majority amid a boycott. But Hasina has since been accused of authoritarianism and harassment of the media and opposition figures, even as she presides over strong economic growth.

Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said on Twitter that “with serious allegations of voter intimidation, restrictions on opposition polling agents and several candidates seeking a re-poll, there are concerns about the credibility” of the election.

At least 47 candidates from the main opposition alliance withdrew before polling closed, alleging vote rigging and intimidation.

Activists, observers and the opposition party had warned that the vote would not be fair, but the governing party accused the opposition of peddling false claims. – IANS

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