Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wins landslide victory
by Sumon Corraya

The ruling coalition takes 276 seats out of 300. Outside the capital, clashes leave 18 people dead. The opposition calls the election a “farce’, demands for a new poll. Bangladesh’s only Catholic lawmaker, Jowel Areng, is re-elected.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League (AL) won a landslide victory in yesterday’s parliamentary elections. One of the lawmakers re-elected was Jowel Areng, the only Catholic member of parliament, who ran with the AL. For Prime Minister Hasina, this is the third consecutive victory since she came to power in 2009.

The opposition slammed the election, saying it was marred by fraud and corruption at polling stations. For this reason, it has already filed a complaint with the Election Commission calling for the vote to be cancelled and a new vote held.

Despite the fear of violence, like during the electoral campaign, voting took place yesterday in a mostly peaceful atmosphere, the exception being outside the capital.

Contrary to claims that internet services had been suspended, some noted that they had access to the web. In Dhaka merchants reported that streets were empty and that the atmosphere was surreal, as if it were a holiday, noting that in the capital, the prime minister is too strong and the government would never allow clashes. Outside the capital, at least 18 deaths were reported.

The outcome of Bangladesh’s 11th general election was never in doubt. Although counting continues (picture 2), Sheikh Hasina is certain to win.

With 66 per cent of the vote in, the Awami League and the Grand Alliance lead with 81 per cent majority. The opposition Oikya Front received 15 per cent of the vote. This translates into 276 seats out of a total of 300 for the ruling coalition. Another 50 are reserved for women and allotted proportional to the overall vote.

The main opposition force, the Oikya Front, is led by a famous lawyer, Kamal Hossain, who served in the cabinet of Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina’s father, but became the main opposition leader after Khaleda Zia, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was convicted of corruption and sent to prison. Hossain demanded the election be cancelled calling it a "farce".

A local source told AsiaNews that at least 50 Oikya Front candidates dropped out of the race complaining of fraud and are now calling for new elections. "Even if the fraud were true, denying AL’s overwhelming victory would be crazy,” said the source.

Now there is the danger that the opposition will take to the streets to protest. However, "they are too weak and the government will not allow them to cause damages."

 (Photo 2, credit: Dhaka Tribune)