Voting
in a tense
election to choose a new government
in
Bangladesh ended on Sunday with at least
17 people
killed
in
poll
related
violence amid allegations of manipulation
by the ruling Awami League led
by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

According to the
Election Commission, 1,848 candidates are contesting for 299 out of 300 Parliament seats. The polls are being held at 40,183 polling stations.
Voting was suspended
in one seat due to the death of a candidate.

While Hasina is seeking re-
election for a fourth term as the prime minister, her chief rival, ex-premier and
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khalida Zia, who is reportedly partially paralysed, faces an uncertain future
in a Dhaka jail.

The
voting started at 8 AM (local time) and ended at 4 PM.

“The eight-hour long
voting has ended as per schedule, preparedness are underway to start the counting,” an
Election Commission (EC) spokesman said.

The unofficial results were expected
by Monday morning which would be announced
by the commission headquarters
in the capital, he said.

The EC officials said they have received over a hundred complaints from candidates throughout the country amid reports of
violence.

At least
17 people, including a member of a security agency, have been
killed
in eight districts
in
poll
related
violence, the Daily Star newspaper reported, with dozens injured. The build-up to the
election has already been marred
by
violence.

Reports said most of the dead were ruling party activists while others were workers of opposition BNP or its allies.

Prime Minister Hasina appeared as the first voter
in Dhaka centre from where her nephew and party candidate Fazle Nur Taposh was a contender.

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“I’m always confident about our victory
in the elections. I trust my people and I know that they will choose us so that they can get a better life
in future,” she said after casting her vote.

Schools and colleges across
Bangladesh were turned into makeshift polling centres for the day while people had begun to line up to cast their vote even before the
election opened.

At least 10 candidates – mostly BNP nominees – announced to stay off the polls alleging that their agents were ousted from polling centres
by the ruling party workers.

BNP’s Ruhul Kabir Rizvi alleged that polling centres are being occupied across the country, the party’s agents are being driven out and that its supporters and activists are facing
violence.

“From the picture we have received, this is a violent
election. We are seeing a one-sided
election environment conducted at the whims of the government. This paints a clear picture that they want to ensure a favourable result through a one-sided contest,” Rizvi told a media briefing at the party office.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told the media from his northwestern Thakurgaon constituency that some of their candidates stayed off the vote
in their “personal decisions” but “we will announce our party stance at 4 PM when the
voting will end”.

No announcement, however, came despite the end of
voting.

Veteran lawyer Kamal Hossain, who leads main opposition alliance National Unity Front (NUF) with BNP being its key partner, however, said “the overall environment is not bad” with huge turnout of voters.

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“But every minute I receive calls saying ‘Kamal Bhai (brother), it has already happened overnight. It began
in the evening. I have gotten so many reports. These reports are concerning. It’s sad and shameful,” he said.

The Jatiya Oikya Front or NUF is a coalition of four parties – Gono Forum, BNP, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Nagorik Oikya and Krishak Sramik Janata League – led
by Hossain.

Over 600,000 security personnel including several thousand soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed across the country to help conduct the
election
in which 10.41 crore people were eligible to vote.

According to the eyewitnesses, posters bearing the ruling party’s “boat” symbol outnumbered those of the main opposition’s “sheaf of paddy”.

BNP earlier said intimidation and police harassment kept their activists away from the campaign and polling process.

“Barring some unwanted incidents, the polling so far was smooth and peaceful. We could tell you at the end of the day if the
election was participatory,” Chief
Election Commissioner Nurul Huda told reporters.

Citing security reasons, authorities temporarily blocked mobile data services and slowed down the internet.

Meanwhile,
Bangladesh‘s private Jamuna TV has been taken off the air. Channel’s chief news editor Fahim Ahmed said private cable operators stopped broadcasting their transmission without giving any reason and “so no one
in
Bangladesh now can see our channel due to the blackout.”

An online newspaper quoting cable operators, however, reported that they stopped Jamuna’s broadcast due to technical glitches as “we are not getting their signal”.

The channel is owned
by an independent candidate
in the polls with an influential businessman from the ruling party being her rival.

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The 11th parliamentary poll is the first fully competitive general
election
in a decade since 2008 while it is widely expected to be won
by the Awami League of Hasina, who is likely to be the country’s first premier for a fourth term.

Zia, serving a 10-year prison term on graft charges, has been barred from contesting the polls while her son Tarique
Rahman is living
in London
in self exile.





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