Thin polling in Bangladesh amid boycott and violence


At least five people were killed on Sunday in violent clashes between opposition activists and police as Bangladesh holds a general election boycotted by the opposition.

Scores of polling stations have been torched and voting is suspended at more than 100. Polling is said to be thin.

The opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) began a nationwide 48-hour strike on Saturday a day after its leader Khaleda Zia urged supporters to “completely boycott” what she called a “scandalous farce” of an election.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is assured of victory, with government candidates already declared victors by default in many seats.

She rejected demands for her to step down and a neutral government to oversee the poll, as in previous years.

Polling today

“The polls opened across the country at 08:00 (02:00 GMT),” said election commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman. Voting will continue until 16:00.

In more than half of constituencies there is no voting at all, because the opposition boycott has led to government candidates being declared winners in advance.

Police opened fire as protesters tried to take over polling station in northern Rangpur district, killing two people.

In Nilphamari district, police also fired on about two dozen protesters. Two people died.

She accused the government of placing her under house arrest – something the authorities deny.

The strike is only the latest in a string of protests by the BNP and its allies – including the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party – that has seen a blockade of roads, railways and waterways and the closure of shops, schools and offices.

In the run-up to the polls, scores of opposition supporters died in police shootings and dozens of commuters were burnt to death by protesters throwing petrol bombs at strike-defying buses.