Two dead in Bangladesh election day clashes

Saul Bowman
December 30, 2018

At least 15 people were killed in election-related clashes in Bangladesh on Sunday, local police officials told CNN.

Thirteen people have been killed and thousands injured in clashes between supporters of Hasina's ruling Awami League and activists of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council spokesman Kajol Debnath said minority community leaders also held a series of meetings with the Election Commission and law enforcement agencies. "I trust my people and I know that they will choose us so that they can get a better life in future", she said after casting her vote.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is seeking her third consecutive term.

A heavy police presence was evident on the streets of the capital Dhaka less than 24 hours ahead of the polls opening at 8:00 am (0200 GMT) on Sunday.

At least nine persons have been killed and over 13,000 injured in politically motivated attacks targeting the opposition, BNP leaders said.

Predicting victory for the ruling Awami League, Mr. Dhume wrote, "Opinion polls in Bangladesh are unreliable, but most informed observers expect Ms. Hasina to win comfortably".

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's founder, is nearly certain to win a historic fourth term as prime minister when the country goes to the polls in its 11th parliamentary elections Sunday due to a decimated opposition.

In addition, opposition workers say they have faced violent attacks and intimidation, including shootings and arrests that have stunted their ability to campaign.

This election, some 104 million people are eligible to vote, including many first-time voters.

Khaleda Zia is escorted back to prison from a hospital visit in Dhaka in November
Khaleda Zia is escorted back to prison from a hospital visit in Dhaka in November

Authorities in the country have shut down 3G and 4G services to counter what they called "propaganda" but opposition activists say the measure will also prevent them reporting any irregularities in voting.

About 600,000 security officials, including army and paramilitary forces, have been deployed across the country in a bid to contain violence in Bangladesh's 11th general elections.

On Friday, police in northeastern Sylhet said BNP followers had killed an Awami activist, bringing to three the number of ruling party supporters killed since November 8, AFP reported.

Hasina's son Sajeeb Wazed, who is seen as her possible successor, told Reuters on Saturday his mother believed that being "branded authoritarian by the western media now is a badge of honour".

Both sides are hoping to avoid a repeat of 2014, when Ms Zia and the BNP boycotted elections and voter turnout in the South Asian nation of 160 million people was only 22%. Khaleda, who has served as prime minister for 10 years, is the widow of former president Ziaur Rahman.

A middle-aged businessman who declined to be named said: "I am here to vote, but my family says, 'what's the point?' The ruling party will come back in power in any case".

Almost five years later, the same opposition political parties including the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalists Party (BNP) are in the race amid accusations that election authorities are not ensuring a level playing field. A total of 1,848 candidates are contesting for 299 out of 300 Parliament seats. The Ruling Awami League (AL) claims they will accept whatever election result prevails. This election has become a complete mockery.the state, the government and the Election Commission are working together to turn it into a mockery.

Some 1,848 candidates - 1,779 men and 69 women - are running in 299 constituencies, while polling in one constituency has been postponed to January 27 due to a candidate's sudden death.

Dhaka-based employee Amzad Hossain said he was confident about the security arrangement in metropolitan areas, but wasn't sure about rural Bangladesh, where numerous country's 40,000 polling centers will go largely unguarded and unobserved.

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