Bangladesh elections: Security on high alert as polling begins

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Dhaka, Dec 30 (IANS) Bangladesh is voting on Sunday in a general election, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking her third consecutive term in office.

Security forces are on high alert, with around 600,000 security personnel deployed across the nation. More than 100 million people are eligible to vote, the BBC reported.

Over 40,000 polling centres across the country opened their doors to roughly 104 million voters at 8 a.m. (Bangladesh time) on Sunday. The polling booths will close at 4 p.m., bdnews24.com reported

Voters will have to turn off their mobile phones before entering the centres.

At least 21.5 million young voters between 18 and 28 years have entered the electoral roll since 2008, making them a substantial demographic that could sway the outcome.

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Electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being used at the national election for the first time in six constituencies.

Results for the constituencies where EVMs will be put to use are likely to be released a few hours after the polls close. Results for the other constituencies are likely to trickle in over the course of Sunday night and Monday morning.

Thirty-nine political parties registered with the Election Commission are contesting in the ballot.

The Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina is seeking an unprecedented third successive term in power.

The 10th parliamentary election in 2014 was boycotted by the BNP, the largest opposition party, and several others.

The BNP has joined in the race this time in a bid to snap Hasina’s run, but is without party chief and three-time former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who has been in prison since February on corruption charges.

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The country has recently been in the international spotlight as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled there from neighbouring Myanmar, the BBC reported.

The government has been praised internationally for taking them in but faces sharp criticism for its human rights record in other areas.

The polls also come months after tens of thousands young people took to the streets in large numbers to protest about road deaths — in a rare show of fury that the authorities and pro-government groups put down with force.

“All we want is corruption to be gone and driving licences to stop being handed out like candy,” one 17-year-old told the BBC in August.

The lead-up to the election has been marked by violence and a crackdown on dissent by a government that critics say has only grown more authoritarian during its 10 years in power.

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–IANS

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