Awami League and the Grand Alliance clinch 267 seats
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has secured a third successive term in office with her ruling Awami League and its Grand Alliance partners, winning the 11th general election by a landslide.
With 267 seats under its belt this time, the ruling alliance has surpassed its 2008 poll success – when it had secured 263 parliamentary seats.
BNP, the main opposition party that has been out of power for 12 years and had boycotted the 10th general polls in 2014, fared extremely poor.
Bagging only eight seats, the party and its Jatiya Oikya Front alliance have been marginalized to the weakest opposition ever since Bangladesh’s post-Ershad democratic restoration in 1991.
Even Ershad’s Jatiya Party, which had joined forces with the ruling party right before the election, managed winning in 20 constituencies.
Of the other Grand Alliance members, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal won two seats each, Workers Party of Bangladesh won three and Tariqat Federation won one seat.
Three other seats went to the independent runners.
Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed announced the unofficial results at the EC office in Dhaka’s Agargaon around 4am on Monday.
He also said that voting in three polling centres in Brahmanbaria 2 constituencies, where vote counting was stopped due to “some problems,” will be held again in a later date.
As many as 299 out of the 300 parliamentary seats were up for election that took place across Bangladesh from 8am to 4pm, and early results last evening had indicated an unprecedented polls defeat for BNP and its alliance.
Dr Kamal Hossain-led Oikya Front, in which BNP is the biggest component, rejected the election at 8pm Sunday, terming it a farcical one, and demanded for a fresh election. It alleged of gross poll irregularities, violence and intimidation.
As many as 57 opposition and independent candidates, including 26 Jamaat-e-Islami adherents, pulled out of the race when the voting was still in progress.
True to her firm pre-polls conviction that she would win a third consecutive term in the general elections based on impressive economic growth under her decade-long rule, Awami League chief Hasina managed to pull off a huge election victory for a third time on the trot.
Daughter of the nation’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina, a 71-year-old charismatic leader, succeeded in earning the victory, fighting odds like continuous accusations of her "authoritarianism and eroding democracy" coming from her opponents.
Sheikh Hasina, whose able leadership first brought Awami League back to Bangladesh’s state power back in 1996 after a 21-year hiatus, also saw the party making a comeback in 2008 and then again in 2014. This time around, she has promised building a non-communal, golden Bangladesh that is free of hunger, poverty and illiteracy.
With over a hundred million eligible voters, the country witnessed much fanfare throughout the day as voting opened at 8am and ended at four in the afternoon. But clashes between opposing party activists and other polls violence claimed as many as 18 lives, while BNP and its allies complained of gross irregularities in the elections, ranging from forcing out their polling agents to intimidation.
The situation at most of the polling centres in Dhaka city was peaceful, except allegations of vote rigging at few centres. Allegations of irregularities were also raised where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used for voting.
Absence of the opposition’s polling agents was a unique feature of Sunday’s election, with the BNP and its partners alleging that their agents had been driven out of all polling centres by the ruling party men.
Election Commissioners Mahbub Talukder and Rafiqul Islam also told reporters that they saw no polling agents while casting their votes at two separate centres in the first hours of voting.
Demanding fresh polls under a caretaker government, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said: “This is not an election. This is a cruel mockery of democracy.”
While Fakhrul said Sunday’s one – the way election was held – was a testimony that polls in Bangladesh cannot be fair if held under partisan government, Awami League’s Election Steering Committee Co-Chairman HT Imam said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had proved that holding inclusive election is possible under incumbent government, and therefore she deserves all the credits.
“Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina has ordered party men not to bring any victory procession after getting final election results,” he further said.
“BNP-Jamaat activists have carried out heinous attacks targeting Awami League leaders and activists; as a result, 10 Awami League activists and two Ansar members were killed by BNP-Jamaat men,” he claimed.
The Election Commission started announcing the results collected from the election officials throughout the country at its headquarters in the evening.
Before the announcement started, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said people have exercised their votes nationwide in a festive mood and peaceful environment, though voting has been postponed at 22 voting centres out of 40,000 due to various reasons.
He said 700,000 officials and staff worked under the commission on the election day, where voting was held by ballot system in 293 constituencies and EVMs were put into play in six constituencies.
“We have information of violence in some places across the country, and asked the law enforcement agencies to take measures,” Helal said. “Legal action will be taken after investigating each of the incidents of election violence.”
In the morning, a team of foreign and local observers, after visiting several polling centres in Dhaka, found that the voting was going on peacefully. The observers were from different countries, including Canada, India and Nepal.
However, no other comments from other observers were available except a few allegations of irregularities received from across the country.
In the first hours of voting, after voting in Dhanmondi, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she was confident about Awami League's victory, and pro-liberation forces will come out victorious. She believes in democracy and has confidence in the country's people.
Calling on all voters and candidates, she said: “We don't want violence. We want people to cast their votes peacefully. They will vote for whom they like.”
Earlier in the morning, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said voting was going on in a comfortable environment, apart from some isolated incidents. When asked about the absence of BNP polling agents, he said: “There is nothing we can do if they do not come.”