Bangladesh Elections 2018: Five killed in clash between Awami League and BNP supporters

Bangladesh Elections 2018: Five killed in clash between Awami League and BNP supporters

Dhaka: At least five people were killed in poll-related violence on Sunday as voting was underway across Bangladesh amid allegations from both the ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of attacks on supporters and candidates.

Voting began at 8 am (local time) in the morning with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appearing as the first voter in Dhaka centre from where her nephew and party candidate Fazle Nur Taposh was a contender.

“People will cast their vote for Awami League to ensure the win of pro-Liberation forces,” she said.

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

Meanwhile, sporadic violence marred the polling in parts of the country with officials confirming five deaths while unconfirmed reports put the figure as high as nine with three of them being the ruling party activists. According to the local media, more than 30 people were wounded in the poll-related violence.

A Jubo League – the youth wing of the Awami League – leader was killed and 10 others injured in a clash between the ruling party and opposition BNP supporters in Rangamati’s Kawkhali. The deceased was identified as Md Basir Uddin, the Jubo League general secretary of Ghagra Union, Bdnews24 reported.

The injured were admitted to Kawkhali Upazila Health Complex, said upazila Awami League General Secretary Ershad Mia.

A BNP activist was killed in Chattogram, while an Awami League supporter died in Rajshahi, the news portal reported. Two political activists were killed in separate incidents of election violence. At least seven candidates – six being BNP nominees – announced to stay off the polls with most of them 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. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said he is hopeful of a Jatiya Oikya Front victory if people are allowed to vote freely.

Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front) leader Kamal Hossain expressed concern over the poll-related violence and said, “It’s sad and shameful.”

The Jatiya Oikya Front is a coalition of four parties – Gono Forum, BNP, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Nagorik Oikya and Krishak Sramik Janata League – led by Hossain. Bangladesh police chief Mohammad Javed Patwary said the nationwide polls are ‘progressing peacefully’ and vowed to investigate the “isolated” incidents of violence.

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

Security agencies have been asked to keep an extra vigil on religious minority communities as media reports said at least three Hindu households were set on fire by miscreants between December 16 and 26.

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.

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 the fourth terms and three consecutive ones.

Citing security reasons, authorities temporarily blocked mobile data services and slowed down the internet while the election commission enforced a ban on ordinary vehicles movement in the capital and other cities.

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. Hasina on Saturday expressed fears that the opposition could boycott polls in the middle of voting as part of a “political trick” to evade a “humiliating defeat”.

“I want to caution all about the character of (main opposition) BNP…they may say in the middle (of the elections) that we are boycotting the polls,” she said.

“In that case (opposition boycott) I will ask our candidates and other contenders to continue polls until the voting is ended,” 71-year-old Hasina said.

Her comments came as the BNP is contesting the polls in a state of disarray in the absence of 73-year-old Zia and her fugitive son Tarique Rahman who is the acting party chief.

Zia, serving a 10-year prison term on graft charges, has been barred from contesting the polls while Rahman is living in London ostensibly to evade the law as a court has sentenced him to life imprisonment for masterminding a grenade attack on a rally in 2004 that killed 24 Awami League leaders and activists.

The BNP has stayed out of parliament since 2014 when it boycotted the last election over its demands for a poll-time non-party government. The opposition parties have expressed doubts about credibility of Sunday’s election alleging their supporters were intimidated and arrested.



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