Bangladesh: After voting, PM Hasina slams opposition on polling day

As the opposition BNP boycotts the elections and tries to find support for a nationwide general strike, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called her rivals a "terrorist organisation"

Polling booth security and officials on 7 January in Dhaka, Bangladesh (photo: DW)
Polling booth security and officials on 7 January in Dhaka, Bangladesh (photo: DW)
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DW

Polls opened in Bangladesh on Sunday, 7 January, as the country headed to vote in the general elections. Opposition parties have boycotted the vote, which rights groups say are expected to give Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina her fifth term in office.

Voting in the country of about 170 million people began at 8 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) and will stay open till 5 p.m.

Initial results are expected by Monday, 8 January.

Nearly 2,000 candidates are competing for 300 directly elected parliamentary seats. There are 436 independent candidates, the most since 2001.

With concerns about violence, the voter turnout is expected to be low. Troops and other security forces have been deployed across the country to guard polling booths. The days leading up to the election have seen several protests.

Bangladesh faces turbulence as opposition questions credibility of elections

The period leading up to the elections has been marred by protests in the country affected by economic slowdown, human rights violations and a crackdown on opposition.

On Saturday, 6 January, seven opposition members were arrested after a train was set on fire in Dhaka in suspected arson.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and some of its smaller allies have boycotted the elections, questioning their credibility.

The BNP has called for a two-day nationwide strike from Saturday, and urged Hasina's resignation, along with the setting up of a neutral authority to conduct elections.

"The BNP is a terrorist organisation. I am trying my best to ensure that democracy should continue in this country," Hasina told reporters after casting her vote on Sunday.

The opposition says Hasina's Awami League has propped "dummy" candidates as independent contesters to make the elections look fair. The main opposition leader, Khaleda Zia, is effectively under house arrest, under corruption charges that she claims are false.

Hasina denies opposition accusations, says rivals fuelled violent demos

Politics in the nation has been polarised by the rivalry between the two powerful women.

Zia's son, Tarique Rahman, is the acting chairman of the BNP. However, he is in exile in London.

Hasina has denied all these claims and accused the opposition of fuelling anti-government protests that have killed at least 14 since October last year.

Bangladesh has seen sharp spikes in food prices and several blackouts since 2022.

The country's garment sector, which accounts for 85% of its annual exports, has seen a stagnation in wages. Some garment factories were set on fire last year, and many others shut down.

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