News / Asia

    Bangladesh Ruling Party Set to Win Poll Hit by Violence, Boycott

    A polling officer pours ballot papers from a box onto a table to count during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
    A polling officer pours ballot papers from a box onto a table to count during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
    Reuters
    Bangladesh's ruling Awami League was poised on Sunday to win a violence-plagued parliamentary election whose outcome was never in doubt after a boycott by the main opposition party.

    With fewer than half of the 300 seats being contested, voters cast ballots in modest numbers amid heavy security in polling that lacked the festivity typical of Bangladeshi elections and was shunned by international observers as flawed.

    Low voter participation could pile new pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to find a compromise with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for holding new elections.

    Results in constituencies that featured a contest were expected late on Sunday or early on Monday. Hasina is expected to form a new government sometime this month.

    Either Hasina or BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia has been prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years. The two are bitter rivals.

    "The immediate fallout of this dismal voter turnout will be the Hasina government coming under greater pressure to hold talks with the opposition," said Hossain Zillur Rahman, an economist and adviser to a former "caretaker" government tasked with overseeing an election.

    "It is the ultimate sign of protest by Bangladeshi people and tells us that they are unhappy with the way elections have been held in this country."

    The impasse between the two main parties, which showed no sign of easing, undermined the poll's legitimacy and is fueling worries of economic stagnation and further violence in the impoverished South Asian nation of 160 million.

    Abul Kashem, who works as a driver and is a supporter of the BNP, was dismayed at the political standoff.

    "This is a suicidal election as it will not bring any peace in the country," he said outside a Dhaka polling station.

    The country's $22 billion garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of exports, has been disrupted by transportation blockades ahead of the election. BNP officials said party supporters would maintain the blockade and called another in a series of general strikes starting from Monday.

    People look at burnt textbooks after a primary school which was supposed to be used as a polling booth was set on fire, in Feni, Bangladesh, Jan. 4, 2014.People look at burnt textbooks after a primary school which was supposed to be used as a polling booth was set on fire, in Feni, Bangladesh, Jan. 4, 2014.
    x
    People look at burnt textbooks after a primary school which was supposed to be used as a polling booth was set on fire, in Feni, Bangladesh, Jan. 4, 2014.
    People look at burnt textbooks after a primary school which was supposed to be used as a polling booth was set on fire, in Feni, Bangladesh, Jan. 4, 2014.
    Eighteen people were killed in separate incidents on election day, according to media reports, and voting was halted at more than 150 polling stations. More than 100 people were killed in the run-up to the ballot, mostly in rural areas, and fears of violence had been expected to keep many voters away.

    Police said they had been forced to fire on opposition activists in six incidents.

    Apart from a handful of crude bomb explosions, Dhaka was calm. In Satkania, near the port city of Chittagong, a poll official's arms were broken and police were attacked.

    Future election?

    Hasina has spoken of holding talks with the opposition on the conduct of future elections which, if successful, could lead to another poll. The BNP had demanded a halt to the current electoral process.

    Women stand in a line to cast their vote at a polling centre during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.Women stand in a line to cast their vote at a polling centre during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
    x
    Women stand in a line to cast their vote at a polling centre during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
    Women stand in a line to cast their vote at a polling centre during parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014.
    Turnout figures were not immediately available, though election officials acknowledged that they had anticipated low numbers and voting appeared slow at Dhaka polling stations.

    At one, in the Lalbagh area, 626 of 2,274 voters, or 28 percent, cast ballots. At another nearby site, final turnout among male voters was 21 percent.

    The BNP said low turnout vindicated its denunciation of the poll as a farce.

    "The turnout is a clear indication that the common people rejected this election and it is almost an election without voters," Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a BNP vice chairman, told Reuters.

    Junior Law Minister Mohammad Quamrul Islam said the election was necessary for the democratic process and repeated that another poll could be held anytime in agreement with the BNP.

    "But they must stop violence before dialogue for the next elections could start," he told reporters after voting.

    The BNP denounces Hasina's scrapping of the practice of having a caretaker government oversee elections. The Awami League says the interim government system has proved a failure.

    Many BNP leaders are in jail or in hiding, and Khaleda says she is under virtual house arrest, which the government denies.

    The European Union, a duty free market for nearly 60 percent of Bangladesh's garment exports, refused to send election observers, as did the United States and the Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.

    "The elections have to happen to ensure a government is formed and the country can start functioning again normally," said Mehedi Rahman, 43, a schoolteacher voting in Dhaka.

    "The unfortunate part is there is hardly any meaning because the opposition has boycotted it and the outcome is known."

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora