May 17, 2021

Bangladesh, ready for elections between accusations of violence and arrests

Bangladesh, ready for elections between accusations of violence and arrests

Bangladesh will hold a general election tomorrow between allegations of violence and mass arrests by the opposition, calls for calm from the international community and a significant deployment of security forces throughout the country.

Some 104 million Bangladeshis, of the nearly 164 million people that the Asian nation has, are called to vote to choose who will govern the country for the next five years.

The current prime minister and leader of the Awami League, Sheikh Hasina, appears as the favorite to win the elections and repeat the mandate for the third time in a row since she took office for the first time in 2009.

The main opposition party is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zía, who is in prison after being sentenced to 17 years for corruption.

The opposition group said yesterday in a statement that the elections could be rigged in favor of Hasina, and denounced that "the forces of order and the terrorists of (the League) Awami are expelling the electoral agents of the BNP, activists and sympathizers."

The BNP also regretted that this "intimidation situation" is occurring throughout the country.

Accusations of violence come between a massive deployment of security forces.

Since December 24, the authorities have mobilized more than 600,000 members of the security forces, including troops from the Bangladeshi Army, the Navy and the border guard, as well as the police, according to the Electoral Commission.

However, the opposition has denounced that they have not been able to work independently due to the interference of the head of the Electoral Commission, KM Nurul Huda.

The BNP has also alleged that since the announcement of the electoral calendar on November 8 and until the end of the campaign last Thursday, a total of 10,329 leaders and activists of the formation have been arrested.

There were also 2,896 attacks against opponents, which left nine dead and more than 13,000 injured.

For its part, Huda called yesterday to the security forces to create "a safe environment so that no one faces any obstacle, and people can exercise their right to vote."

The request of the Electoral Commissioner was added to that of the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, who called on calm Thursday.

The deputy secretary general of the Awami League, Mahbubul Alam Hanif, told Efe that the violence is due to an internal conflict in the BNP.

"I do not think his accusations have any basis, we've all seen that they had problems nominating candidates, at first they nominated two or three people for each seat, they may be suffering because of this," Hanif said.

The politician was "100% confident" that the Awami League will win the elections, and said that "the violence and corruption" of the BNP have destroyed the country.

These elections represent the return of opponents to the struggle for power through the ballot boxes, after which in 2014 the opposition parties, including the BNP, boycotted the elections by abolishing the Awami League the modality of interim government that in the last decades it had been used to supervise electoral periods.

The largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), comes under the umbrella of the BNP after a court canceled its registration.

The BNP and the Awami League have been in power since 1991, except for a brief period of military tutelage between 2006 and 2008.


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