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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs