Saturday, October 23

Election chief rejects call for new vote after Hasina landslide win


Bangladeshi people read newspaper carrying headlines of the general election results in Dhaka. — AFP photo

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s election chief yesterday rejected calls for a new election after widespread opposition claims of rigging in a weekend vote which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won by a landslide.

The opposition has demanded a rerun, saying Sunday’s election was marred by massive irregularities including voter intimidation, ballot box stuffing and a crackdown on Hasina’s opponents.

Chief Election Commissioner K.M. Nurul Huda said the polls were carried out “successfully” as 80 per cent of the 104 million voters turned out to cast ballots.

“We are not going to hold a new election. There is no scope to hold a fresh one,” Huda told reporters.

“If some isolated incidents took place at any (polling) centres we have to probe it. We didn’t receive any complaint of irregularities yet. We will probe if any come,” he said.

Hasina’s Awami League and its allies won 288 of the 300 seats in the election and the ruling party called the opposition complaints “irrational”.

“We reject their claim and humbly request them to withdraw their statement,” a party spokesman said.

The polls were marred by violence which left at least 17 dead during clashes between rival parties and with police.

The win gives Hasina her a third straight term and 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.

She denies such charges.

The alliance dominated by her Awami League, seen as close to regional power India, won 287 of the 298 seats for which results have been declared, the commission said.

There are 300 constituencies in the country.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which boycotted the last poll in 2014, won just six seats.

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 later on Monday.

At least 17 people were killed as the vote took place, police said, after a violent campaign during which the opposition alleged the government denied it a level playing field.

“We’ve had bad elections in the past but I must say that it is unprecedented how bad this particular election was,” 82-year-old Hossain told Reuters late on Sunday. — AFP