The ruling Awami League has swept to an easy victory in Bangladesh’s violence-plagued national election, but the result will do little to quell political tensions in the country.
The outcome of Sunday’s vote was never in doubt after the opposition boycotted the contest, with 153 Awami League candidates or allies elected unopposed to the 300-seat parliament.
Of the seats that were in play, the Awami League picked up 105, while allied parties or independents won the rest, according to initial results.
But the deaths of 21 people in election-day violence, including attacks by opposition supporters on hundreds of polling stations, have underlined the country’s polarisation.
The violence halted voting at about 400 polling stations, while police said they had been forced to fire on opposition activists several times.
The local Daily Star called it the bloodiest election in the country’s history, describing the Awami League’s win as “a hollow victory which gives it neither a mandate nor an ethical standing to govern effectively”.
Voters in modest numbers cast ballots on Sunday amid heavy security, in an election shunned by international observers.
The low voter turnout could pile new pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to find a compromise with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for holding new elections.
“It is the ultimate sign of protest by Bangladeshi people and tells us that they are unhappy with the way elections have been held in this country,” economist Hossain Zillur Rahman said.
The BNP had been protesting against Hasina’s decision to scrap the practice of having a neutral caretaker government oversee elections.
The country’s $22bn garment industry was disrupted by transportation blockades ahead of the election, and BNP officials have called another in a series of general strikes starting on Monday morning.
Although specific voter turnout numbers were not immediately available, the BNP said the low participation confirmed its view of the poll as a farce.
“The turnout is a clear indication that the common people rejected this election,” BNP vice chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, meanwhile, said the turnout did not matter, noting: “What is important is that the people defied violence.”