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In Dhaka, whiff of too big a victory

Awami League leads in most constituencies, BNP calls it a 'cruel farce'

By Devadeep Purohit in Dhaka
  • Published 31.12.18, 3:25 AM
  • Updated 31.12.18, 8:16 AM
  • a min read
  •  
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks to the media after casting her vote in Dhaka on Sunday.. AP

Early trends suggested a landslide victory for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League in the Bangladesh elections in which 18 people were killed, prompting the Opposition to term the process a “farce” and seek fresh polls.

Quoting unofficial sources, the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, the national news agency, reported at midnight that the ruling Awami League was leading in most of the 300 parliamentary constituencies.

“The Awami League candidates are leading in 122 seats, the BNP contenders in two constituencies and the Jatiya Party (a component of the Awami League-led grand alliance) in one seat,” the agency reported.

Some Awami League supporters expressed surprise at the possible sweep although victory in itself was expected. “It’s a bit embarrassing,” said an insider. “But we all know that the Opposition was in disarray and they didn’t even conduct proper campaigning,” he said, trying to justify the result.

“This is a cruel farce,” said Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgir, the secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the country’s main Opposition force that led a coalition of parties under a fledgling platform, the Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front).

The news agency also reported that Hasina had been elected unofficially from Gopalganj-3 constituency, polling 229,539 votes against her rival BNP candidate S.M. Zilani, who got 123 votes. BNP secretary-general Alamgir also won the northeastern Bogura constituency with a huge margin.

Supporters of the Opposition parties ridiculed the overall trends. “Without large-scale malpractice, such a result is an impossibility. This result again establishes that elections in our country should be held under caretaker neutral governments,” said a businessman who was dining at a restaurant in upscale Dhaka.

At least 50 candidates, including 22 from the Jamaat-e-Islami, withdrew from the poll process during the day.

The full picture, sources in the poll panel said, is expected to emerge by early Monday. The sources said the polling percentage was likely to be around 70 per cent.

If the early trends hold, Hasina looks set to win a record third consecutive term in office. “Whatever be the people’s mandate, we will accept it gracefully,” Hasina had said earlier in the day after casting her vote.

Although Dhaka remained peaceful, poll-related violence was reported in districts like Comilla, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Dinajpur and Bogura.

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