Bangladesh polling closes amid clashes, opposition boycott

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Dhaka, Dec 30 (IANS) Polling stations in Bangladesh closed on Sunday after a day of violent clashes in which at least 12 people have died as well as a boycott by the main Muslim opposition party, reported EFE.

Some 104 million citizens in the largely Muslim country were called to cast their ballots in what has been a deadly general election scarred by violence, mass arrests, a large military deployment and a boycott by the main Muslim party minutes before polling ended.

“Such a lopsided election cannot be accepted under any circumstance, and that is why our candidates, who are contesting with the ‘sheaf of paddy’ symbol (BNP), have rejected and boycotted the polls in their respective constituencies,” Shafiqur Rahman Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) secretary general said in a statement.

“This is not an election but a farce and deception of the people of Bangladesh,” Rahman added.

Around 40,000 polling stations in 299 constituencies opened at 8 a.m. for around 104 million eligible voters.

Since polls opened,10 people have been killed in violent clashes between the political factions and two people died in the early hours of Sunday as a result of political disputes, bringing Sunday’s death toll to 12.

The current Prime Minister and leader of the Awami League, 71-year-old Sheikh Hasina, is expected to win which would pave the way for her third mandate since she came to power in 2009.

The BNP-led coalition- the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by three-time former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who is currently in prison serving 17 years on corruption charges and as such her role as leader would be unclear – has accused the Awami League of targeting BNP activists and spreading a climate of violence and intimidation in the lead up to the vote.

The BNP leads a coalition of political parties, including the JI, whose registration was canceled by a court but managed to present candidates via the BNP.

Clashes between the opposition and Hasina supporters have gripped Bangladesh since the date for the elections was slated on November 8.

The BNP has accused the government of a harsh clampdown which they claim has seen hundreds of opposition leaders and activists arrested.

–IANS

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