Bangladesh election: 16 reported dead as opposition rejects 'farcical' vote

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

Early results showed Hasina's Awami League racing into a clear lead.

According to results announced until 11 pm, the ruling Awami League party won 90 seats, followed by its key ally the Jatiya Party at 13, bdnews.24 reported. "We call them Hasina's armed cadres".

In Ms Zia's absence, opposition parties formed a coalition led by Mr Hossain, an 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer and former member of Ms Hasina's Awami League party.

But they said they should be free to elect their leader, and that a lack of campaigning by the opposition was not helping them decide.

Hasina focused a speech broadcast by video late Wednesday to supporters in Dhaka on the impressive economic growth of the past decade.

The election campaign has been marred by allegations from the opposition of arrests and jailing of thousands of Hasina opponents. More than half of the 300 parliamentary seats were uncontested. "I can say with 100 per cent confidence that the Awami League will win the polls", the techie, who will catch the afternoon flight to Washington DC on Sunday after casting his vote, said.

People cast their vote with an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) for the first time at a voting center during a general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on December 30, 2018.

Facebook last week shut down a series of fake news sites spreading false information about the opposition that a threat intelligence consultancy determined were created and managed by government associates.

"Some stray incidents have happened". We want people to cast their votes peacefully.

The commission said it would act if rigging was confirmed, even as at least three voters in southeast Bangladesh, including a journalist, said they were barred from entering polling booths or were told their ballot papers had already been filled in.

While the capital city of Dhaka mostly remained peaceful, sporadic cases of violence were reported from other parts of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Elections
Bangladeshis line up to cast their votes outside a polling station in Dhaka

A spokesman for the RAB, Bangladesh's elite security force, said on Saturday they had arrested eight men for spreading rumours on social media before the poll.

But opponents have criticized reports of voter intimidation and "irregularities" in the election.

He said the ruling party would reconsider a tough new media law it introduced and another it has tightened if it retains power. "Why did it take us so long?" said Wazed, who speaks with a USA accent.

"Hasina's use of the state machinery to subjugate the opposition virtually ensures her electoral victory", said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, a South Asia analyst for New York-based Eurasia Group.

Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed announced the unofficial results at the EC office in Dhaka's Agargaon around 4am on Monday.

While rights groups sound the alarms about the erosion of democracy, Hasina has promoted a different narrative, highlighting an ambitious economic agenda that has propelled Bangladesh past larger neighbors Pakistan and India by some development measures.

A bitter decades-long rivalry between Hasina and Khaleda - often called "the two begums", or noblewomen - has frequently manifested itself in violence by their parties' student and youth wings.

55-year-old Hossain Ali, an Awami League activist and poll volunteer, is stabbed to death by his nephew during an argument about the election at Natore's Noldanga.

Both sides are hoping to avoid a repeat of 2014, when Zia and the BNP boycotted elections and voter turnout in the South Asian nation of 160 million people was only 22 percent.

Human Rights Watch and other global groups have decried the crackdown, saying it has created a climate of fear which could prevent supporters of opposition parties from casting their ballots.

The same day, the new USA ambassador to Bangladesh said he had met with the chief election commissioner and the rest of the commission because the United States was concerned "by the high level of campaign violence over the last two weeks".

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