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User Name: abdulruff
Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
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When polls are farce: Where is Bangladesh going?




Bangladesh has again made a complete mockery of elections as the means for standard democracy. 

The just concluded elections in Bangladesh have been declared almost universally as face and fake. The European Union, a duty free market for nearly 60 percent of Bangladesh's garment exports, refused to send election observers, as did the United States and the Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.

The government of Bangladesh has showcased a parliamentary poll gimmick to fool the world and somehow obtain legitimacy for continued rule for the Awami League party led by Sheik Hasina. In the farcical polls, Bangladesh's ruling Awami League, as already known, won a violence-plagued parliamentary election whose outcome was never in doubt after a boycott by the main opposition party. With fewer than half of the 300 seats being contested, voters in modest numbers cast ballots on Sunday amid heavy security in polling that lacked the festivity typical of Bangladeshi elections and was shunned by international observers as flawed.

The Awami League won 105 of the contested seats, on top of the 127 seats where it ran unopposed, giving it a more-than two-thirds majority. Hasina is expected to form a new government this month. "It is the ultimate sign of protest by Bangladeshi people and tells us that they are unhappy with the way elections have been held in this country."

Eighteen people were killed in separate incidents on Election Day, according to media reports, and voting was halted at about 400 polling stations. More than 100 people were killed in the run-up to the ballot, mostly in rural areas, and fears of violence kept many voters away. Police said they had been forced to fire on opposition activists in six incidents. Apart from a handful of crude bomb explosions, Dhaka was calm. In Satkania, near the port city of Chittagong, a poll official's arms were broken and police were attacked.

The impasse between the two main parties, which showed no sign of easing, undermined the poll's legitimacy and is fuelling worries of economic stagnation and further violence in the impoverished South Asian nation of 160 million.

Turnout figures were not yet available; though election officials acknowledged that they had anticipated low numbers and voting appeared slow at Dhaka polling stations. At one, in the Lalbagh area, 626 of 2,274 voters, or 28 percent, cast ballots. At another nearby site, final turnout among male voters was 21 percent. The BNP said low turnout vindicated its denunciation of the poll as a farce. "The turnout is a clear indication that the common people rejected this election and it is almost an election without voters," a BNP spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

Junior Law Minister Mohammad Quamrul Islam said the election was necessary for the democratic process and repeated that another poll could be held anytime in agreement with the BNP. "But they must stop violence before dialogue for the next elections could start," he told reporters after voting.

Hasina has spoken of holding talks with the opposition on the conduct of future elections which, if successful, could lead to another poll. The BNP had demanded a halt to the current electoral process. The BNP denounces Hasina's scrapping of the practice of having a caretaker government oversee elections. The Awami League says the interim government system has proved a failure. Many BNP leaders are in jail or in hiding, and Khaleda says she is under virtual house arrest, which the government denies.

Either Hasina or BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia has been prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years while military did the rule intermittently. The two leaders are bitter rivals claiming power at any cost

Low voter participation could pile new pressure on incumbent PM Sheikh Hasina to find a compromise with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for holding new elections. The immediate fallout of this dismal voter turnout will be the Hasina government coming under greater pressure to hold talks with the opposition.

The country's $22 billion garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of exports, has been disrupted by transportation blockades ahead of the election. BNP officials said party supporters would maintain the blockade and called another in a series of general strikes starting Monday morning.

For many Bangladeshis, this is a suicidal election as it will not bring any peace in the country.

The elections have to happen to ensure a government is formed and the country can start functioning again normally, but elections should be as farcical as they were in Bangladesh.


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