Awami League-led coalition wins Bangladesh election

  • 31 Dec 2018

Election official says Bangladesh's ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won Sunday's violence-marred election with 288 seats, enabling it to form a government. The opposition has rejected the result and called for a new vote.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is seeking to return to power for a third consecutive time in the December 30 elections, which the opposition has alleged could be rigged. (April 19, 2018) ( AFP )

An election official says Bangladesh's ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won Sunday's election with 288 seats, enabling it to form a government.

Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed finished delivering the results of the voting early Monday.

Ahmed said the ruling Awami League-led alliance won 288 seats while the Jatiya Party led by former president H.M. Ershad had 20 seats. 

TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury reports from Dhaka.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance has rejected the result and is calling for a new vote.

The BNP-led opposition won seven seats. Other parties picked up three. Election to one seat was not held Sunday and results for another seat were halted by the commission.

"We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible," Kamal Hossain, heads of the opposition alliance, told reporters.

Hasina’s win consolidated her decade-long rule over Bangladesh, where she is credited with improving the economy and promoting development, but has also been accused of rampant human rights abuses, a crackdown on the media and suppressing dissent – charges she denies.

Hindu voters wait to cast their vote outside a voting center during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh December 30, 2018.(Reuters)

Raising minimum wages for workers in Bangladesh’s massive garments industry, the world’s second biggest after China, could be one of her first tasks after she takes office, party leaders have said.

Hasina will meet foreign journalists and poll observers at her official residence on Monday.

TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury is in Dhaka and has this report.

At least 17 were people were killed as the vote took place, police said, after a violent campaign season during which the opposition alleged Hasina’s government never granted it a level playing field.

“The whole election was completely manipulated. It should be canceled,” 82-year-old Hossain said in an interview at his residence in the capital Dhaka late on Sunday. Candidates of the alliance reported witnessing ballot-stuffing and vote rigging by ruling party activists, who also barred opposition polling agents from voting centers, Hossain said.

“We’ve had bad elections in the past, but I must say that it is unprecedented how bad this particular election was. The minimum requirements of free and fair election are absent.”

Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Wazed, called the opposition “sore losers making false allegations”.

The Election Commission said it was investigating allegations of vote rigging from across the Muslim-majority country of 165 million people. An agency spokesman declined to say if those probes would affect the election result.

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Awami League’s Joint Secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak said the opposition had been rejected by voters and that its refusal to accept voting results was “not unusual.”

“It is their old habit,” he said referring to the BNP, which has alternated in power with the Awami League for most of the last three decades. “We thought they would welcome this election for a change. But they could not change their habit,” Nanak said.

Scores of opposition workers were arrested in the months before the election on charges that the opposition said were “fictitious,” and many said they were attacked by ruling party activists, crippling their ability to campaign.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is pictured during a media briefing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, December 17, 2018.(Reuters)

Hasina’s government has denied the accusations and her party says many of its own workers have been injured in attacks by the opposition. Seven ruling party workers and five BNP workers were killed and 20 wounded on election day, police said.

“The election is a cruel mockery with the nation. This type of election is harmful to the nation,” BNP Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

Reuters reporters across the country witnessed sparse attendance at polling booths, and some voters alleged ruling party workers had blocked them from entering booths saying their ballots had already been cast. Campaign posters of the ruling party dominated streets in many parts of Dhaka.

This was the first election in which the BNP campaigned without its leader Khaleda Zia – Hasina’s arch rival. The two women have alternated in power for most of the last three decades, but Khaleda has been in jail since February on corruption charges that she says are politically motivated.

Opposition leader Hossain said he would meet with alliance members on Monday to decide their next step.

The Election Commission said it would hold a fresh vote for one seat where the poll was marred by violence. Another constituency, where a candidate died days before the election, will also go to the polls in the next few days.