Bangladesh PM wins new term in vote marred by violence

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Dhaka–Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has secured a new term with a landslide victory, the country’s Election Commission said on Monday, in an election marred by deadly violence and condemned by the opposition as “farcical” amid vote rigging claims.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) party and its allies won a total of 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats contested in Sunday’s poll, well above the 151 seats needed to form a government. With this tally, the AL surpassed its previous election wins, making Hasina 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”. They demanded a new vote, bdnews24.com reported.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Hasina over telephone and congratulated her on the victory. “Wished her the very best for the tenure ahead,” he tweeted.

Modi also reiterated India’s continued commitment to work together for the development of Bangladesh and further strengthening of bilateral relations.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also congratulated Hasina in a tweet.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang also extended their congratulations to the Bangladesi leader.

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

Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said there was an 80 per cent voter turnout in the 11th national parliamentary elections. Voting was suspended at 16 of the over 40,000 polling centres.

BNP’s Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir called the election “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 involved in the contest.

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.

However, the demand to conduct fresh polls were rejected by the poll body, bdnews24.com reported.

“To the claims of large-scale irregularities, the boycott of the vote and the demand for fresh polls I say: ‘No, we will not hold a new election. There is no scope for a new election’,” said Election Commissioner Huda.

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.

This time also her government has been accused of human rights abuses during the election. At least 17 people were 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 boycotted by the largest opposition group and its allies.

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. (IANS)

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