Bangladesh’s Election Commission announced that the Awami League, Bangladesh’s ruling party, had won 287 of 298 seats in parliament. This will be a third term for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a controversial figure in the country. Following the announcement, those in the opposition declared the vote to be largely fraudulent. The Electoral Commission received several reports of voter suppression, vote-rigging, and ballot stuffing. An investigation is underway but whether it will sway the election results are unlikely. Furthermore, elections in the country were extremely contentious, with 17 people killed in election-related violence. While Prime Minister Hasina is largely credited with improving the economy, she is also accused of human rights abuses and media suppression. In constituencies where polling was halted because of violence, there will be another opportunity to vote, but as it stands, with the Awami League capturing the overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament, it will do little to sway the results.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Wins 3rd Term
Amid Deadly Violence on Election Day
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling party won Bangladesh’s election with a large majority, the country’s Election Commission said early on Monday, giving Mrs. Hasina a third straight term following a vote that the opposition rejected as flawed.
At least 17 people were killed in Bangladesh in election-related violence on Sunday, according to the police, as voters went to the polls to decide an election tainted by widespread allegations of rigging by the government.
The win by Mrs. Hasina’s Awami League, which was reported by the secretary of the Election Commission Secretariat in a televised speech, would consolidate her decade-long rule over Bangladesh. Mrs. Hasina is credited with improving the economy and promoting development, but has also been accused of rampant human rights abuses, a crackdown on the news media and suppressing dissent — charges she denies.
The head of the opposition coalition, Kamal Hossain, said the alliance had asked the Election Commission to order a fresh vote under a neutral administration “as soon as possible,” alleging Sunday’s poll was unfair and that Mrs. Hasina’s government never granted her opponents a level playing field.
“The whole election was completely manipulated. It should be canceled,” Mr. Hossain, 82, said in an interview at his residence in the capital, Dhaka, late Sunday. Candidates of the alliance reported seeing ballot-stuffing and vote-rigging by ruling party activists, who also barred opposition polling agents from voting centers, Mr. Hossain said.
“We’ve had bad elections in the past, but I must say that it is unprecedented how bad this particular election was,” he said. “The minimum requirements of free and fair election are absent.”
The Awami League won 287 of the 298 seats for which results have been declared in the 300-seat Parliament, the Election Commission said. The main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which boycotted the last poll in 2014, won just six seats.
The commission said it had received allegations of vote-rigging from “across the country,” which it was investigating. A spokesman at the agency declined to say whether those investigations would affect the election result.
The commission said it would hold a new vote for one seat where the poll was marred by violence. Another constituency, where a candidate died days before the election, will also go to the polls in the next few days.
Jahangir Kabir Nanak, the joint secretary of the Awami League, said the opposition had been “rejected by the people of Bangladesh” and that its refusal to accept voting results was “not unusual.”
“It is their old habit,” he said referring to the B.N.P., which has alternated in power with the Awami League for most of the last three decades. “We thought they would welcome this election for a change. But they could not change their habit,” he said.
Scores of opposition workers were arrested in the months before the election on charges that the opposition called “fictitious,” and many said they were attacked by ruling party activists, crippling their ability to campaign.
“The election is a cruel mockery with the nation. This type of election is harmful to the nation,” said the B.N.P.’s secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Mrs. Hasina’s government has denied the accusations and her party has claimed many of its own workers were injured in attacks by members of the opposition.
Polling booths across the country were sparsely attended, and some voters alleged that ruling party workers had blocked them from entering booths, saying their ballots had already been cast. Campaign posters of the ruling party dominated streets in many parts of Dhaka.
This was the first election the B.N.P. had campaigned without its leader, Khaleda Zia. She and Mrs. Hasina have alternated in power for most of the last three decades, but Mrs. Zia has been in jail since February on corruption charges, which she has called politically motivated.
Mr. Hossain said he would meet with alliance members on Monday to decide the next step. B.N.P.’s demand this year for polls to be held under a neutral government was rejected by Mrs. Hasina, who promised a “free and fair election.”
Source: The New York Times, (No byline), Dec. 31, 2018. Photo credit to Indranil Mukherjee/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.