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Hat-trick for Awami League and Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh polls

Opposition has called the elections farce and demanded fresh polling; at least 17 people were killed in poll-related violence in eight districts

SNS | New Delhi |

Sheikh Hasina is all set to become the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the third consecutive term, scripting history in the country’s political history. The Awami League led by her cruised to victory in Sunday’s general elections that was marred by violence leaving at least 17 people dead.

According to local media reports, the ruling Awami League-led coalition won over 260 seats in the 300-member House.

Opposition has called the elections farce and demanded fresh polling.

The results show the BNP-led Jatiya Oikyafront or National Unity Front (NUF),  a 20-party opposition alliance, fared poorly, reports The Daily Star. The NUF is a coalition of parties, including BNP, Gono Forum, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Nagorik Oikya and Krishak Sramik Janata League.

The Jatiya Party, which performed better than the BNP, is set to emerge as the main opposition in the new parliament.

According to local media reports, the ruling Awami League-led grand alliance bagged 266 seats. Independent candidates won in two seats. The election was postponed in one seat due to the natural death of a candidate.

According to the Election Commission, Hasina polled 2,29,539 votes against the 123 votes polled by her BNP opponent in southwestern Gopalganj.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who steered the party in the absence of jailed leader Khaleda Zia and won from his northeastern constituency, described the polls as a “cruel farce”.

“We reject the results and demand a new election under a neutral government,” NUF convenor and veteran lawyer Kamal Hossain, who heads the Gono Forum party, told reporters after early results suggested a win for AL-led Grand Alliance.

“We ask that you cancel this election right away,” Hossain urged the Election Commission, claiming, “we have reports that fraudulence took place in almost all centres”.

The Left Democratic Alliance (LDA), comprising eight left-leaning political parties, also rejected the election results and demanded fresh polls.

At least 17 people, including a member of a security agency, have been killed in eight districts, and several others were injured in poll-related violence, The Daily Star reported. Reports said most of the dead were ruling party activists, while others were workers of opposition BNP or its allies.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told The Daily Star, “Our polling agents were deployed in almost all polling centres but they were driven out by ruling party men and law enforcers. Many were arrested while many others were attacked. Our candidates repeatedly informed the election officials and law enforcement agencies about it but they did not take any action.”

Quoting EC officials, a PTI report said they received over a hundred complaints from candidates throughout the country amid reports of violence.

However, EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed claimed the election was peaceful and hugely participatory.

Over 600,000 security personnel including several thousand soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed across the nation for the election in which 10.41 crore people were eligible to vote.

“Barring some unwanted incidents, the polling so far was smooth and peaceful,” Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda said.

Citing security reasons, authorities temporarily blocked mobile data services and slowed down the internet.

Hasina was sworn in as the prime minister of Bangladesh for the first time in 1996, after she steered her party to power after 21 years.

In 2008, she returned to power and became the PM again after AL won more than two-thirds majority in the national polls. Securing a landslide victory, her party retained power in 2014, even as the polls were boycotted by the BNP-led alliance.

(With PTI)