Polls open in Bangladesh’s parliamentary elections

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Voting started Sunday in Bangladesh’s contentious parliamentary elections, seen as a referendum on what critics name Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s more and more authoritarian rule.

Hasina’s primary rival is former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the chief of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Get together, deemed ineligible by a court docket from working for workplace as a result of she is in jail for corruption.

The 2 girls have been out and in of energy — and jail — for many years.

In Zia’s absence, opposition events have fashioned a coalition led by Kamal Hossain, an 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer and former member of Hasina’s Awami League social gathering.

By eight a.m. Sunday when polls opened, about 80 folks had lined as much as solid their poll at a voting middle in Dhaka’s Uttara Mannequin City space.

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Polling employees appointed by candidates confirmed Election Fee officers empty poll bins earlier than the primary paper poll was solid.

Awami League supporters had arrange assist desks on the road exterior the polling station for voters to seek out their registration serial numbers.

Ashraful Islam, a retired engineer, was among the many first in line on the Uttara Mannequin City voting middle.

“I’m very glad,” he mentioned.

The election marketing campaign has been marred by the arrests and jailing of what the opposition says are hundreds of Hasina opponents, together with six candidates for Parliament. At the very least a dozen folks have been killed in campaign-related clashes.

“Hasina’s use of the state equipment to subjugate the opposition nearly ensures her electoral victory,” mentioned Sasha Riser-Kositsky, a South Asia analyst for New York-based Eurasia Group.

Each side are hoping to keep away from a repeat of 2014, when Zia and the BNP boycotted elections and voter turnout within the South Asian nation of 160 million folks was solely 22 p.c. Greater than half of the 300 parliamentary seats have been uncontested. The Awami League’s landslide victory was met by violence that left not less than 22 folks lifeless.

This election, some 104 million persons are eligible to vote, together with many younger, first-time voters.

Whereas rights teams sound the alarms concerning the erosion of Bangladesh’s democracy, Hasina has promoted a unique narrative, highlighting an formidable financial agenda that has propelled Bangladesh previous bigger neighbors Pakistan and India by some improvement measures.

Voting is anticipated to conclude at four p.m. throughout greater than 40,000 polling stations. Counting will start quickly after the voting ends. Hasina, who’s in search of a 3rd consecutive time period, solid her poll in Dhaka.

About 600,000 safety officers, together with military and paramilitary forces, have been deployed throughout the nation in a bid to comprise violence in Bangladesh’s 11th common elections. Bangladesh’s telecommunications regulator shut down cellular web providers nationwide to stop attainable protests from organizing.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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