Initial trends in Bangladesh’s general election indicate a “landslide” for the ruling coalition, the Grand Alliance, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League.
Counting began soon after polling for 299 seats ended at 4 p.m on Sunday.
Till late in the evening, the Election Commission had confirmed the complete result of only one constituency in southwestern Gopalganj from where Ms. Hasina won bagging 2,29,539 votes while her opponent from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) got only 123 votes.
Election officials said Awami League candidates were leading in 62 seats while BNP contenders were ahead in two constituencies.
However, the Opposition’s rainbow coalition, the Jatiyo Oikya Front (JOF) has demanded a re-election under a neutral government, rejecting the election.
Earlier in the day, at least 15 persons were killed in sporadic violence during voting. Eight of the dead were members of the ruling Awami League, while five belonged to the BNP.
“Remarkable voter turnout has ensured a landslide victory for Awami League,” said party general secretary Obaidul Quader.
Candidates pull out
“At least 100 of our candidates have now withdrawn their names from this election. We are rejecting the results of this election and demanding fresh poll under a neutral government,” said JOF chief Kamal Hossain, addressing a press conference.
The Jamaat-e-Islami, a constituent of the front, has withdrawn its candidates following what it described as “a one sided election.” The Jamaat had fielded 21 candidates contesting under the BNP’s symbol.
Several voters alleged various types of malpractice at the polling stations. “My sister’s family in Mirpur could not vote as [their] votes had already been cast,” said a plastic surgeon from Dhaka Medical College.
Another doctor, who visits Kolkata often, compared the situation with West Bengal’s “scientific vote rigging.”
“We heard of this scientific rigging in Bengal, but did not have a clear idea about it. Now we have — it is multiple level of manipulation; from intimidating the [party] workers to alleged threat to the election agents of the opposition parties, the manipulation was at various levels,” he said.
Many voters in Dhaka — all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity — said they had not seen any election agent of the BNP in any of the polling stations.
Main Opposition party, BNP, described the election as “a farce.”
“There was no need to stage a farce in the guise of an election…they could have just announced victory in all seats,” said BNP Joint Secretary General Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal.
Social media has been abuzz with strong reactions to the alleged malpractices in the elections. “Just witnessed a controlled demolition of democracy,” said Masud Hasan Khan, a London based BBC journalist from Bangladesh.
“Reminds me of 60s and 70s of South America. What is there to count folks?” quipped Shahab Enam Khan, an international affairs scholar.
One of the Election Commissioners (Investigation and Adjudication) Md Rafiqul Islam did not deny the allegation entirely that the opposition agents were absent from the polling stations.
“In some places they may not have [managed to put polling agents] or in places they have not given one. [An agent] is not allowed to enter or pushed out is perhaps not the right observation. The point is that [the agents] have not gone to their respective stations. We do not know why they did so…it is their wish,” said Mr Islam.
He further told The Hindu that the EC “did not receive any information” about the issue as no one informed them if the election agents are “intimidated.”
“We have not received any official complaints,” Mr. Islam said.
The Secretariat of the Election Commission said that out of about 40,000 polling stations they had stayed the elections in “only 22” centres following various complains.
Three Indian observers were also in stations in and around Dhaka and one of them said that they have “seen election agents of the opposition parties.”
By Monday morning all the election results are expected to be out but the celebration has already begun anticipating a massive victory.