“Fake” elections in Bangladesh keep Sheikh Hasina in power

“Fake” elections in Bangladesh keep Sheikh Hasina in power

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won re-election for the fifth time, following an opposition boycott, with her party winning at least half of the seats and counting continuing, an election official said.  elections

“The ruling Awami League party has won more than 50 percent of the seats,” an Election Commission spokesperson said.

However, election officials were still counting votes Sunday when the official declared her the winner amid a boycott of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which she called a “terrorist organization.”

Hasina’s government has been accused of rampant human rights abuses and a ruthless repression of the opposition. Her party faced almost no effective challengers in the seats she contested, but she avoided fielding candidates in a few electoral districts, an apparent effort to avoid the legislature being branded a one-party institution. But Ms. Hasina, 76, called on citizens to show faith. in the democratic process. “The BNP is a terrorist organization,” she told reporters after casting her vote. “I am doing everything I can to ensure that democracy continues in this country.”

‘Why would I go vote?’ elections 

Results are expected on Monday (today) morning, and television channels will broadcast the first counts from several polling stations that will put the ruling party candidates ahead.

Chief Election Commissioner Habibul Awal told reporters that turnout, according to preliminary figures, was around 40 percent.

There were widespread reports of carrot-and-stick incentives to encourage participation with the goal of bolstering the legitimacy of the elections.

BNP president Tarique Rahman, speaking from Britain, where he lives in exile, said he was concerned about vote stuffing. “I fear that the electoral commission could increase voter turnout by using fake votes,” he told AFP.

Many said they had not voted because the result was assured. “When one party participates and another does not, why would I go and vote?” said Mohammad Saidur, 31, who drives a rickshaw.

“We all know who is going to win,” said Farhana Manik, a 27-year-old student.

Some voters previously said they had been threatened with confiscation of government benefit cards needed to access welfare payments if they refused to vote for the ruling Awami League.


“They said that since the government feeds us, we have to vote for them,” Lal Mia, 64, told AFP in the central district of Faridpur.

Fear of “new repressive measures”    elections 

The BNP and other parties staged months of protests last year, demanding that Hasina resign before the vote.

Officers in the port city of Chittagong broke up an opposition protest on Sunday, firing shotguns and tear gas canisters, but election officials said the vote was largely peaceful, with nearly 800,000 police and soldiers deployed across the country.

Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that the government had failed to assure opposition supporters that the elections would be fair, and warned that “many fear further repression.”

Politics in the world’s eighth most populous country has long been dominated by rivalry between Hasina, daughter of the country’s founding leader, and two-time prime minister Khaleda Zia, wife of a former military ruler.

Hasina has been the decisive victor since she returned to power in a landslide in 2009, with two subsequent elections accompanied by widespread irregularities and accusations of rigging.

Ms Zia, 78, was convicted of corruption in 2018 and is now in poor health in a Dhaka hospital, with her son Tarique Rahman leading the BNP in her place from London.

Rahman told AFP that his party, along with dozens of others, had refused to participate in a “fake election”.

Hasina accused the BNP of arson and sabotage during last year’s protest campaign, which was mostly peaceful but saw several people killed in police clashes.

Government security forces have been dogged by accusations of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, accusations she rejects.

The United States, the largest export market for the South Asian nation of 170 million people, has imposed sanctions on an elite police unit and its top commanders.

Economic headwinds have left many dissatisfied with Hasina’s government, after sharp increases in food costs and months of chronic blackouts in 2022.

US says Bangladesh elections were not free and fair

The United States shares the view that the weekend elections in Bangladesh were not free and fair, the US State Department said on Monday, adding that Washington was concerned about reports of voting irregularities and condemned the violence that occurred.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reached a fourth consecutive term in power, with her party winning almost 75% of the seats in Sunday’s general election.

But the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the vote and turnout was low.

“The United States remains concerned about the arrests of thousands of members of the political opposition and reports of irregularities on Election Day,” a State Department spokesperson said Monday.

Read Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina wins fourth consecutive term in vote boycotted by main opposition

“The United States shares the view with other observers that these elections were not free or fair and we regret that not all parties participated.”

Bangladesh elections
Bangladesh elections

The ruling Awami League party won 222 seats out of 298, according to unofficial results released by the Election Commission. The election was the 12th held in Bangladesh since its independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Human rights groups have warned of a virtual one-party government by Hasina’s Awami League in the South Asian country of 170 million people.

Hasina, 76, daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, first became prime minister in 1996.

Hasina downplayed the opposition’s boycott and said her goal was to boost the economy.

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