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Monday, December 31, 2018, 14:33
Bangladesh poll: PM Hasina wins new term in landslide victory
By Agencies
Monday, December 31, 2018, 14:33 By Agencies

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks to the media after casting her vote in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 30, 2018. (ANUPAM NATH / AP)

DHAKA — Bangladesh's ruling alliance won virtually every parliamentary seat in the country's general election, according to official results released early Monday, giving Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a third straight term despite allegations of intimidation and the opposition disputing the outcome.

The coalition led by Hasina's Awami League party won 288 out of 300 seats — 96 percent — in Sunday's polls, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said. The opposition alliance led by prominent lawyer Kamal Hossain won only seven seats.

The Election Commission secretary said the ruling alliance led by PM Hasina won the election with 288 seats. The results mean Hasina will form the government for the third consecutive time

Hasina's win 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.

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.

Opposition leader Kamal Hossain said their alliance, the National Unity Front led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had called on the Election Commission to order a fresh vote under a neutral administration "as soon as possible", alleging Sunday's poll was flawed.

ALSO READ: Bangladesh votes in polls seen as referendum on resolute PM

At least 17 were people were killed as the vote took place, police said, after a violent campaign season 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 itis unprecedented how bad this particular election was," 82-year-old Hossain told Reuters late on Sunday.

Candidates reported witnessing ballot-stuffing and vote-rigging by ruling party activists, who also barred opposition polling agents from voting centres, Hossain said.

"The minimum requirements of free and fair election are absent," he said.

Hossain said he would meet opposition alliance members on Monday to decide their next step.

Bangladesh's leading newspapers made banner headlines, some in red, while television stations aired round-the-clock analysis. A headline in the country's leading English-language newspaper, the Daily Star, reads "Hat-trick for Hasina, BNP found missing in polling; atmosphere festive, tuned only to ruling party," referring to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Bangladeshi people read a newspaper carrying headlines of the general election results in Dhaka, Dec 31, 2018. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP)

However, Sajeeb Wazed, Hasina's son and an Awami League member, told Reuters no one was intimidated into voting for the party and accused the BNP of pre-election violence.    

"Overall, there were long lines at polling stations andvoting was peaceful. Despite the alarmist characterisations of outsiders, democracy is stable and flourishing in Bangladesh," Wazed said by email.

We've had bad elections in the past but I must say that it is unprecedented how bad this particular election was. The minimum requirements of free and fair election are absent

Kamal Hossain, Leader of the opposition alliance, Bangladesh

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party congratulated Hasina, calling her victory important for regional peace and Bangladesh's progress.

Among the Awami League winners was Mashrafe Mortaza, the captain of Bangladesh's One-Day cricket team.

'CREDIBILITY CONCERNS'

The Election Commission said it was investigating allegations of vote rigging from across the Muslim-majority country of 165 million people. A spokesman declined to say if those probes would affect the election result.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter: "With serious allegations of voter intimidation, restrictions on opposition polling agents and several candidates seeking a re-poll, there are concerns about the credibility of the Bangladesh elections."

Hundreds of opposition workers were arrested in the months before the election on charges that the opposition said were "fictitious", and many said they were attacked by ruling party activists, crippling their ability to campaign.

Hasina's government has denied the accusations and her party says many of its own workers were hurt in attacks by the opposition. Seven ruling party workers and five BNP workers were killed and 20 wounded on election day, police said.

READ MORE: Army deployed ahead of Bangladesh's general elections

Reuters reporters across Bangladesh witnessed sparse attendance at polling booths and some voters alleged ruling party workers had blocked them from entering booths, saying their ballots had already been cast. Campaign posters of the ruling party dominated streets in many parts of Dhaka.

The Election Commission said it would declare voter turnout figures late on Monday.

Bangladeshi polling officials count ballots shortly after voting ended at a polling station in the city of Panam Nagar, southeast of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 30, 2018. (ANUPAM NATH / AP)

This was the first election in which the BNP campaigned without its leader Khaleda Zia – Hasina's arch rival. The two women have alternated in power for most of the past three decades but Khaleda has been in jail since February oncorruption charges that she says are politically motivated.

The Election Commission said it would hold a fresh vote for one seat where the poll was marred by violence. Another constituency, where a candidate died days before the election, will also go to the polls in the next few days.

Wazed told Reuters on Saturday the next government would try to lift Bangladesh's growth rate to 10 percent, from 7.8 percent in the 2017/18 financial year.

He also said minimum wages for workers in the garments industry, which at sales of more than US$30.6 billion generates around 83 percent of Bangladesh's total exports, would beraised.

Wazed said the government wanted to diversify into phone andother electronics manufacturing.

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