News / Asia

Bangladesh Elections Marred by Clashes, Low Voter Turnout

Members of the election commission remove election material after hearing news of a possible attack on polling booths by protesters in Bogra, Jan. 5, 2014. Members of the election commission remove election material after hearing news of a possible attack on polling booths by protesters in Bogra, Jan. 5, 2014.
x
Members of the election commission remove election material after hearing news of a possible attack on polling booths by protesters in Bogra, Jan. 5, 2014.
Members of the election commission remove election material after hearing news of a possible attack on polling booths by protesters in Bogra, Jan. 5, 2014.
Anjana Pasricha
Bangladesh has held a general election marred by a low voter turnout and clashes which have killed at least 18 people. The ruling Awami League party is assured of victory due to an boycott by opposition parties, but that could deepen the political gridlock in the country.   

A text message by the Election Commission asking people to go out and vote without “fear and hassle” had little impact on voters as violence wracked Bangladesh Sunday.

Scores of polling booths, mostly in rural areas, were attacked or set on fire by opposition activists hurling homemade explosives. One polling officer was reported beaten to death. Several other people were killed in clashes between police and protesters out to disrupt the election. Voting was suspended in some areas.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the election along with several other parties and urged voters to shun the polls.  But it was not just that call or the fear of violence which kept voters away.

Ruling Awami League candidates have won more than half the seats up for election because they were unopposed.  
  
Baidul Alam Majumdar of the Citizens of Good Governance in Dhaka is among those who did not need to vote because the candidate in his constituency had no challenger.  He says most people considered the polls pointless because they were denied a choice. 

“Usually the mood in elections of Bangladesh is very festive," he said. "The fact that the voter turnout is very, very low indicates that people have no interest and people do not think that this is an election they should go to vote for and it is not worth voting for. People are very concerned, very apprehensive, there is widespread violence.”

Television stations showed several polling stations that were nearly empty.

  • Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks during a press conference after her Awami League won elections, Dhaka, Jan. 6, 2014.
  • A polling officer pours ballot papers from a box onto a table to count during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Protesters shout slogans during a clash with police in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Activists of Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami set fire to an office of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League during a clash in Narayanganj, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Election materials are set ablaze in front of a polling booth after an attack by protesters in Bogra, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • A girl watches people entering a polling booth as army soldiers stand guard during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Activists of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chase activists of the Awami League during a clash in Rajshahi, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Army soldiers patrol a street during the election in Dhaka, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • A police officer kicks a protester during a clash after protesters attacked and set fire to polling booths, Bogra, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Villagers tend to a man after he was injured during a clash with police in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.

The opposition boycott was triggered by the government’s refusal to heed demands that elections be held under a neutral caretaker government as has been past practice. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party has led strikes and blockades since the elections were called.  

In a recent televised address, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she tried to bring the opposition into the election, but they spurned her offer of dialogue. 

There are fears that the political turbulence will intensify after the vote.

Ataur Rahman, a professor of politics with Dhaka University, says the voter turnout Sunday could be the lowest in the country’s history, and this will encourage the opposition to press for new elections. 

“The opposition parties have got the message that people have rejected or the people have no support of this kind of election. So I think they will capitalize on it and continue their movement, unless this government, they declare the election cancelled,” says Rahman.

The international community, which refused to send observers, has also questioned the legitimacy of Sunday’s polls.

Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow for the Asia Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation in Washington says Bangladeshis will not see this as a fair election.

“I think this is a very unsettling situation," she said. "Look we are having election, where the main opposition party is not participating, most of its allies are not participating, both the EU and U.S. have said they will not send election observers, you have the main opposition leader Khaleda Zia basically under house arrest.”

Political analysts in Bangladesh say the new government will have no moral authority, and will have to consider negotiations with the opposition to end the political impasse.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid