In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised a fifth term

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is heading towards a fifth term after her party’s victory on Sunday January 7 following legislative elections boycotted by the main opposition party which denounced a “mock election”.

The Awami League, to which she belongs, “won more than 50% of the seats” in the unicameral parliament, a spokesperson for the electoral commission told Agence France-Presse (AFP), a few hours after the polls closed.

Somoy TV, the largest private television channel in the country of 170 million people, previously announced that Mme Hasina was assured of victory, with the League and its allies having won at least 60% of the 300 parliamentary seats.

If the head of government, in power since 2009, is credited with having fostered dazzling economic growth in the eighth most populous country in the world, once plagued by extreme poverty, her government is accused of serious violations of human rights and for having carried out a ruthless repression against the opposition.

After voting in Dhaka, the 76-year-old prime minister called on voters to go to the polls, promising elections “free and fair”. She, in passing, denounced the boycott of the vote by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main component of the opposition, which she described as“terrorist organization”.

The BNP, for its part, denounced “a sham election”. The vote was also boycotted by other parties, decimated like it in recent months by mass arrests. The Awami League had virtually no opponents in the constituencies it contested, but did not field candidates in a few others, apparently to avoid the unicameral Parliament being seen as the instrument of a single party . Among those elected from the ruling party are Shakib Al Hasan, captain of the national cricket team, the national sport, according to the media.

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” Shame “

The head of the national electoral commission, Habibul Awal, estimated participation during the day at around 40%. Many Bangladeshis interviewed by AFP said they did not vote, believing that the vote was a foregone conclusion.

“Why would I go to vote when we have one party participating and the other not? »for example declared Mohammad Saidur, a 31-year-old rickshaw driver. “We all know who will win”added Farhana Manik, a 27-year-old student.

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The leader of the BNP, Tarique Rahman, who went into exile in London, denounced ballot stuffing. “What took place is not an election, but rather a disgrace to the democratic aspirations of Bangladesh”he writes on the social networksadding having seen “disturbing photos and videos”.

Many witnesses reported various incentives, even blackmail, from the authorities to encourage participation. Some voters say they were threatened with confiscation of their government benefit cards, necessary to obtain social benefits, if they refused to vote for the Awami League.

“They said that since the government feeds us, we must vote for it”told AFP Lal Mia, 64, who votes in the district of Faridpur, in the center of the country.

Mass arrests

The BNP and other parties protested unsuccessfully for months late last year, demanding Hasina and the formation of a non-political caretaker government to oversee the elections.

Some 25,000 opposition leaders, including all local BNP leaders, were arrested after these demonstrations, during which several people were killed in clashes with the police, according to the party. The government, for its part, reported 11,000 arrests.

In Chittagong, in the east of the country, police fired on Sunday, without causing injuries, to disperse around sixty opposition activists who had set up a roadblock to protest against the holding of the vote, according to local police. Nearly 700,000 police officers and reservists as well as nearly 100,000 soldiers were deployed for the occasion, according to the electoral commission. Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have long been accused of excessive use of force, which the government denies.

Since his return to power in 2009, Hasina strengthened her control after two elections marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud. Its economic successes have long fueled its popularity, but difficulties have increased recently, with rising prices and widespread power outages.

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The World with AFP

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