UK & World News

  • 6 January 2014, 10:40

Bangladesh Election 'Won' By Ruling Party

Bangladesh's ruling party has been declared the winner of parliamentary elections that have been marred by killings, an opposition boycott, and low turnout.

At least 18 people died in political violence on polling day alone, in a vote which saw fewer than half of the 300 seats being contested.

It meant the result was a foregone conclusion and the ruling Awami League took 232 seats - far more than the 151 needed to form a government.

But the chaos surrounding Sunday's election has plunged Bangladesh deeper into turmoil and fuelled fears of economic stagnation, amid the threat of further violence.

International observers refused to attend the election, which was branded flawed.

Along with a low voter-turnout, it is set to put pressure on the Bangladesh government to hold talks with the opposition.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia, who leads the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), are bitter rivals.

The country has been ruled by either of these women - both from powerful political families - for more than two decades.

The boycott was sparked after Ms Hasina refused to agree to opposition demands to step down and appoint a neutral caretaker government to oversee the election.

The poverty-stricken nation of 160 million people has been hit by political violence in recent months as opposition activists staged attacks, strikes and transport blockades.

This has caused disruption to the country's $22bn (13bn) clothing industry, which accounts for 80% of exports.

More than 100 people were killed in the run-up to the ballot, mostly in rural areas, and fears of violence kept many voters away.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a BNP vice chairman, said: "The turnout is a clear indication that the common people rejected this election and it is almost an election without voters."

Law Minister Mohammad Quamrul Islam said the election was necessary for the democratic process, and repeated that another poll could be held anytime in agreement with the BNP.

"But they must stop violence before dialogue for the next elections could start," he said.

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