Sheikh Hasina Secures Fifth Term as Bangladesh PM Amid Low Turnout and Opposition Boycott

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a fifth term in office, after her ruling Awami League party secured a landslide victory in the general election held on Sunday.

According to the official results announced by the Election Commission on Monday, the Awami League and its allies won 288 out of 299 seats in the parliament, while the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its partners managed to get only seven seats.

The BNP, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is currently in jail on corruption charges, boycotted the election, accusing Hasina of rigging the polls and refusing to step down for a neutral caretaker government to oversee the vote.

The BNP also alleged that its candidates and supporters faced intimidation, harassment, and violence from the Awami League activists and security forces, resulting in at least 18 deaths and hundreds of injuries on the polling day.

The BNP rejected the election results and demanded a fresh vote under a non-partisan administration.

The Election Commission, however, dismissed the allegations of widespread irregularities and said the election was free and fair.

The voter turnout was about 40%, according to the Election Commission, compared with over 80% in the last election in 2018, when the BNP participated.

Hasina, 76, is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, who was assassinated in a military coup in 1975. She has been serving as the prime minister since 1996, except for a brief period of military-backed caretaker rule in 2007-2008.

She has been credited with boosting the economy, which grew at an average of 6.5% annually in the last decade, and the garments industry, which accounts for 80% of the country’s exports. She has also received international praise for hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar.

This will be her fifth term as the prime minister and her fourth consecutive one.

Hasina said she was trying her best to ensure democracy in the country and that her only accountability was to the people of Bangladesh.

She also instructed her party leaders and supporters not to celebrate the victory or hold any processions, in view of the opposition’s complaints and the loss of lives during the election.

The election was held for 299 directly elected parliamentary seats, with nearly 120 million voters eligible to choose from almost 2,000 candidates. One seat will be contested later, after an independent candidate died of natural causes before the vote.

Among the winners from the Awami League were actor Ferdous Ahmed and former Bangladesh cricket captains Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza.

Independent candidates, many of them disgruntled Awami League members, won 49 seats.

The election was the 12th since Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, after a bloody war.

The US and other Western countries called for a free and fair election and urged all parties to refrain from violence and respect the democratic process.

Human rights groups warned of a one-party rule by Hasina’s Awami League and expressed concern over the crackdown on the media, civil society, and political opponents.

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