A policeman stands guard in front of ballot boxes at a
distribution centre ahead of parliamentary elections in
Dhaka. REUTERS/Khurshed Rinku
Bangladesh holds a parliamentary election today, a
contest boycotted by the main opposition, marred by violence
that has killed more than 100 people and shunned by
Polls were due to open at 8am (local time) and close at 4pm,
although with fewer than half of the 300 parliamentary seats
being contested, the ruling Awami League was poised to sweep
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) urged
voters to stay away from the "farcical" election.
The impasse between the country's two dominant parties, which
shows no sign of easing, undermines the poll's legitimacy and
is fuelling worries of economic stagnation and further
violence in the impoverished South Asian nation of 160
Either Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina or BNP chief Begum
Khaleda Zia has been prime minister for all but two of the
past 22 years and the two are bitter rivals.
"These elections are in no way going to help resolve the
stalemate we have seen in the past few months," said Iftekhar
Zaman, executive director of global anti-corruption body
Transparency International in Bangladesh.
"The parliament which will emerge will be one without an
opposition and so there will be a very big legitimacy
Turnout was also likely to be crimped by fears of violence.
More than 120 polling places have been set ablaze since
Friday, an election commission official told Reuters. Much of
the unrest has been in rural areas.
The election commission sent a text message on Saturday to
voters saying their security was ensured and urging them to
turn out. "Please go to cast your vote without any fear and
hassle," it said.
Army troops have been deployed since Dec. 26 to maintain
order during the election.
The BNP is protesting against the prime minister's scrapping
of the practice of having a caretaker government oversee
elections. Many of its leaders are in jail or in hiding.
The Awami League says the interim government system has
failed in the past.
The country's $22 billion garment industry, which accounts
for 80 percent of its exports, has been disrupted by
transportation blockades ahead of the election.
The European Union, a duty free market for nearly 60 percent
of Bangladesh's garment exports, has refused to send election
observers, as have the United States and the Commonwealth, a
grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.
Mohammad Selim, a rickshaw puller from the Jatrabari area of
Dhaka, said that although he was frustrated by the one-sided
nature of the election, he still planned to vote.
But Mohammad Mostafa, from the northern district of Rangpur,
said he felt no urge to go home from Dhaka and cast his vote.
"This year, it seems to me meaningless."