Bangladesh goes to polls amid boycott, violence

Dhaka, Jan 5: Polling stations in Bangladesh opened Sunday morning for the parliament elections boycotted by the main opposition party which enforced non-stop countrywide strike and blockade.

Voting will continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at about 18,000 polling stations set in schools and other public buildings, Xinhua reported.

More than 43.9 million voters are expected to cast their vote at 18,208 centres.

Hasina’s Awami League and 11 small parties have participated in the elections.

Mired in controversy, Bangladesh’s 10th parliamentary election is being held in just 147 out of 300 seats in 59 out of 64 districts of the country. 153 candidates have already been elected unopposed amid boycott by the main opposition and its allies.

More than half of the country’s 100 million voters are not getting an opportunity to vote in the elections that have already sealed a victory for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after the opposition boycotted the “farcical” contest.

Some 21 parties including ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are boycotting the elections over Hasina’s refusal to introduce a non-party interim government to oversee the election.

The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance Saturday urged people to boycott the elections and warned that the government will be responsible for any untoward incident Sunday.

The BNP Friday announced another shutdown for 48 hours starting from Saturday. The shutdown, aimed at protesting the confinement of Zia and to seek cancellation of the polls, will end at 6 a.m. Monday.

Since Nov 26, the opposition alliance has enforced nationwide blockade for 22 days in phases, demanding the cancellation of the elections.

It wanted the polls to be held under an independent caretaker government, a demand the ruling Awami League has declined.

IANS