Bangladesh’s ruling party wins poll

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Bangladesh electionsBangladesh’s ruling Awami League has won a violence-plagued general election according to preliminary results.

The opposition had boycotted the vote, and fewer than half the 300 parliamentary seats were contested.

At least 18 people were killed during Sunday’s polling. Dozens have died in the run-up to the election.

With just over 20% reportedly taking part in this years polling whereas, more than 70% voted in the 2008 parliamentary elections, with officials saying the fear of violence and the boycott kept many away this time.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led a nationwide 48-hour strike beginning on Saturday after its leader Khaleda Zia urged supporters to “completely boycott” what she called a “scandalous farce” of an election.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the opposition’s demands for her to step down and set up a neutral government to oversee the poll.

The BNP has demanded that results be declared null and void and has called for another 48-hour general strike to begin on Monday.

Widespread violence erupted across the country on Sunday. Scores of polling stations – many of them schools – were torched, and violent clashes broke out between opposition activists and police.

The Awami League won 105 of the 147 contested seats, with allied parties or independent candidates taking the remaining 34. The ruling party also held 127 seats that were unopposed. Election in eight constituencies were not held.

However, the initial tally means Sheikh Hasina will face no problem forming the next government.

All elections since 1991 have been held under a neutral caretaker administration to ensure that voting is not fixed.

But the Awami League abolished the caretaker system in 2010, arguing that it was no longer necessary.

The government has insisted the BNP should take part in the polls within the existing constitutional framework.

Batori correspondent

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