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Bangladesh goes for polls, PM Sheikh Hasina seeks fourth term
31 December 2018, 02:19 | Tara Lloyd
600,000 deployed for Bangladesh vote marred by violence
Hasina, who is seeking a third consecutive term, cast her ballot in Dhaka.
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.
At least 17 people were killed in election-day clashes in Bangladesh on Sunday, after a bloody campaign overshadowed a crackdown on the Opposition by Prime MinisterSheikh Hasina, who was expected to win a historic, but controversial, fourth term.
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.
Hasina's ruling Awami League party easily crossed the 151 seats required to form a majority government, according to local TV station Channel 24, which is compiling results from around the country.
Bangladesh opposition alliance leader Kamal Hossain has called the country's general election "farcical", and says any outcome will be rejected.
He told reporters at a media briefing telecast live that the opposition calls on "the Election Commission to declare this election void and demand a fresh election under a nonpartisan government".
The ruling Awami League-led grand alliance bagged 266 seats and its ally Jatiya Party secured 21, while the opposition National Unity Front (UNF) with BNP being its key partner got only seven seats, according to the channel.
About 600,000 security officials, including army and paramilitary forces, have been deployed across the country in a bid to contain violence in Bangladesh's 11th general election.
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Hasina focused a speech broadcast by video late Wednesday to supporters in Dhaka on the impressive economic growth of the past decade.
BNP leader Khaleda Zia, an arch-rival of the prime minister, was sentenced to 17 years in jail earlier this year on charges that her party says are politically motivated.
The election campaign has been marred by allegations from the opposition of arrests and jailing of thousands of Hasina opponents.
Alleging vote manipulation, at least three candidates fighting against the Awami League withdrew from the contest in Khulna, a divisional headquarters around 300 km (186 miles) southwest of Dhaka.
"Some stray incidents have happened".
Citing security reasons, authorities temporarily blocked mobile data services and slowed down the internet while the election commission enforced a ban on ordinary vehicles movement in the capital and other cities.
"I have never missed voting in my life". But its leaders, candidates such as Khan, and workers say they are facing violent attacks and intimidation, including shootings and arrests, that have stunted their ability to campaign.
There are over 104 million registered voters in the country.
"I am hearing the same thing happening at several other polling booths in Chittagong", the journalist said.
"We are saying very strongly. whatever we do, let us stick it out, however ugly", he said. Almost 1 million security personnel, including army, police and the Border Guard Bangladesh, have already been deployed to ensure security in the election.
"Hasina's use of the state machinery to subjugate the opposition virtually ensures her electoral victory", said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, a South Asia analyst for New York-based Eurasia Group.
Hasina has already invited foreign journalists and poll observers to her official residence on Monday, by which time the election result will be known.
While rights groups sound the alarms about the erosion of democracy, Hasina has promoted a different narrative, highlighting an ambitious economic agenda that has propelled Bangladesh past larger neighbors Pakistan and India by some development measures.
The two women have been in and out of power - and prison - for decades. No-one from the opposition parties was visible. The 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer is a former member of Hasina's Awami League party.
Human Rights Watch and other global groups said the crackdown created a climate of fear which could prevent opposition supporters from casting ballots.
The country's Election Commision told a news agency that it is also investigating claims of vote rigging across the nation.
Her government was criticised this year for its heavy handling of weeks of massive student protests over the abolition of job quotas and poor safety standards on Bangladesh's unsafe roads.
In recent months Hasina's government has also strengthened a digital security law, which rights groups and journalists have said makes investigative journalism nearly impossible.
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