Bangladesh PM Hasina wins third straight term despite vote-rigging claims
December 31, 2018
DHAKA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s alliance won Bangladesh’s election with a thumping majority, the country’s Election Commission said on Monday, giving her a third straight term following a vote that the opposition rejected as rigged. The win consolidated Hasina’s 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. Opposition leader Kamal Hossain said their alliance, the National Unity Front led by the 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. 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. Candidates reported witnessing ballot-stuffing and vote-rigging by ruling party activists, who also barred opposition polling agents from voting centers, 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. 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 and voting was peaceful. Despite the alarmist characterizations of outsiders, democracy is stable and flourishing in Bangladesh,” Wazed said by email. 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.