Bangladesh elections marred by deadly clashes

Vote counting begins across Bangladesh as death toll from election-related violence climbs to 17.

Bangladesh elections
Presiding officers count votes at a voting centre in Dhaka [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Vote counting was under way on Sunday after Bangladeshis cast their ballots in general elections marred by deadly violence and accusations of irregularities.

At least 17 people were killed in election-related violence in various parts of the South Asian country, a police spokesperson said. But the capital, Dhaka remained relatively calm. 

The Daily Star, the leading English-language newspaper, said the deaths occurred mostly because of clashes between supporters of the ruling Awami League and the opposition Jatiya Oikya Front. 

Two people were killed during attacks in south-eastern Chittagong and western Rajshahi, the paper reported. One man who tried to steal a ballot box was shot dead by the police in central Cumilla, while another was killed in a fight in the same district, the paper said.

One death was reported in each of the following districts; Dinajpur, Rangamati, Cox’s Bazar, Bogura, Gazipur, and Sylhet.

The Daily Star said a member of a law enforcement agency was killed in south-eastern Noakhali.

Mobile internet was shut down and more than 600,000 security personnel were deployed across the country in a bid to check violence following a bloody campaign. But fears of violence kept voters away from the polling stations, according to local media. 

Allegations of rigging

About 104 million people were registered to vote in the country’s 11th general election. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina‘s Awami League hopes to win the vote on the back of rapid economic development during her 10-year rule. 

The opposition Jatiya Oikya Front has accused Hasina’s Awami League of vote rigging. 

“We are getting disturbing reports outside Dhaka that overnight votes have been cast illegally,” said Kamal Hossain, who leads the alliance. 

More than 40 opposition candidates pulled out of the election after polls opened, citing vote rigging and ballot stuffing, according to the Daily Star. 

Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal, the joint general-secretary of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), the main party in the opposition alliance, called the election a “mockery”. 

But Mahbubul Alam Hanif, joint general-secretary of the ruling party, said he was satisfied with Sunday’s vote. 

“We are happy with the way the vote turned out. I believe Awami League will gain an absolute victory,” he said. 

The elections commission, which has yet to announce the voter turnout rate, said it would investigate allegations of vote rigging. 

“Allegations are coming from across the country and those are under investigation,” SM Asaduzzaman, the spokesman of the elections commission said.

“If we get any confirmation from our own channels then measures will be taken as per rules.” 

Abdul Malik, secretary at the Ministry of Information, said the election was held “peacefully and successfully”.

He added: “Results will be announced in collaboration with the election commission.”

The Awami League needs 151 seats in the 300-seat parliament to form a government. If Hasina’s party wins, she will be taking office for a record fourth time.

The opposition claimed thousands of its activists were arrested in the lead up to the polls.

Source: Al Jazeera