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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora