Bangladesh's violent poll campaigning ends

A street filled with election posters in Dhaka. The ruling Awami League is going up against a Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition alliance in tomorrow's general election.
A street filled with election posters in Dhaka. The ruling Awami League is going up against a Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition alliance in tomorrow's general election.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PM Hasina seeks third term tomorrow after weeks of deadly attacks on political workers

DHAKA • Campaigning for Bangladesh's general election ended yesterday after weeks of violence, mainly against workers and officials from an opposition alliance, that has drawn criticism from the United States and others.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League is seeking its third straight term in tomorrow's election against the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which boycotted the last vote in 2014.

Internet services were slowed across the country, with 3G and 4G services suspended for several hours, a Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission official said yesterday. "We asked telecoms operators to halt 3G and 4G services temporarily on Thursday night. We have done it to prevent propaganda and misleading content spreading on the Internet," the official told Agence France-Presse.

He said higher-speed Internet services resumed yesterday morning after a 10-hour blackout, but could be suspended again later in the day.

The Awami League is promoting its economic record over the past decade but a BNP-led opposition alliance, many of whose leaders have been jailed, has vowed to remove curbs on the media, increase wages and freeze energy prices.

"The government has lost moral support," BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters on Thursday, urging voters to "restore democracy".

"The people are with us. They want change," he said.

 
 
 
 

BNP's preparations have been hamstrung by the February jailing of its chairman, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, on what the party called trumped-up corruption charges.

Awami League leaders deny any misuse of power and say they will return to government with an overwhelming majority.

Ms Hasina told supporters on Thursday they must "ensure victory of pro-liberation forces", a reference to Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971 led by her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The Economist Intelligence Unit expects her party to win a third term.

The BNP said on Thursday that more than 8,200 opposition leaders and activists from a coalition of about 20 parties have been arrested since early last month. Four workers were killed and more than 12,300 injured, it said.

The Awami League has said that the BNP and its partners were behind attacks that killed at least six of its workers over the past three weeks. Police declined to confirm the figures.

Mr Earl Miller, the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, said all parties had been victims of violence, including women and minority candidates. "However, it appears opposition party candidates have borne the brunt of most violence," he said in a statement after meeting Election Commission officials on Thursday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'Bangladesh's violent poll campaigning ends'. Print Edition | Subscribe