Christians and Hindus live in fear following Bangladesh election
by Sumon Corraya
The country's religious minorities deserted the polls following threats from Islamists. The election results saw the ruling party win, but the opposition boycotted the poll. Police failed to protect voters. At least 25 people died in factional clashes.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Religious minorities of Bangladesh lived through Sunday's general election in fear.

The ruling Awami League (AL) won a landslide, a foregone conclusion since the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and other opposition parties boycotted the poll.  

Only 20 per cent of voters cast their ballot compared to 70 per cent in 2008.

In the past three days, at least 25 people died in clashes between supporters of different camps.

Minorities, especially Christians and Hindus, were prevented from exercising their voting rights because of threats from extremists.

"We didn't go to the polling centre because some opposition threatened us that if we went to the poll they would attack us," said Samor Gomas, a Catholic from Natore district.

"I called by mobile phone to police and local AL leaders, but nobody come forward to protect us," said a Hindu in Jessore.

In the village of Sindurmoti, 4,000 residents were eligible to vote, 90 per cent Hindus, but not a single vote was cast at the Sindurmoti Government Primary School polling centre.

Political leaders appear unable to find a short-term solution to the situation.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the elections were fair and that her party won. "An election can happen any time when BNP comes for a dialogue, but they must stop violence," she explained.

For its part, the opposition decided to maintain its hardline stance. BNP Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman called on the party's supporters to continue the anti-government movement "at any cost."

"Unite the people in your areas, discuss among yourselves, strengthen the party's foundation and pounce in action with full might," he told them.