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Sheikha Hasina won a third term in the Bangladesh election, marred by deadly violence

Bangladeshi sheikha Hasina won a third consecutive term as prime minister, the country’s election commission said Monday, in a referendum marred by deadly violence and fraudulent forgery.

The Hasami ruling Awami League won an overwhelming majority of 288 votes out of a possible 300 seats, according to the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi, with just one seat remaining. The opposition coalition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) took seven seats.
Opposition Jatiya Oikya rejected the voting front and demanded new elections, accusing AL of mobilizing ballot boxes.
She also accused her government of human rights violations during the elections. At least 18 people were killed in election-related violence when clashes broke out between supporters of the ruling party and the opposition on Sunday, local police officials told CNN.
The army has been deployed throughout the country to try to prevent violence in recent polls, which have been marred by low participation and boycotted by the largest opposition group and its allies.
But a police official said nine people were killed in Chittagong alone on Sunday.
The 71-year-old Awami League of Bangladesh, led by Hasina, has been in power since 2009 and won the last election in January 2014 by an overwhelming majority under the province. However, Sheikha Hasina has since been accused of authoritarianism and harassment of the media and opposition figures, even as she presided over strong economic growth.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on the right, flashed the symbol of victory after casting her ballot.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on the right, flashed the symbol of victory after casting her ballot.
Concerns about transparency
Human rights groups and opposition figures have warned of possible elections on Sunday despite promises of transparency from the authorities.
“The government will delay entry visas for electoral observer groups such as the Asian Free Elections Network (ANFRE), despite its promises of openness,” said Salil Tripathi, a London-based journalist and author of “The Unlikely Colonel: Bangladesh’s War and Its Unorthodox Legacy.”
“The question is whether there are observers on the ground in time to see what is happening,” Tribathi told CNN. “You want free and fair elections, and Bangladesh is missing this as an opportunity … If you do not allow observers to come, how will you prove that?”
In a report last week, Human Rights Watch said that “the repressive political environment in Bangladesh undermines the credibility of the process.”
The report said “authoritarian measures, including large-scale surveillance and freedom of expression campaign, have created a climate of widely described fear,” adding that police failed to act impartially and ignored attacks on opposition figures.
“The police and election commission should not appear to be acting as the ruling party,” said Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch in Asia.
“Violence during the campaign against the opposition mainly raises their concerns about unfair treatment,” he said.
Many of the violence witnessed in 2014 targeted the BNP and the opposition coalition Jatiya Oikya Front (UFN).
A supporter of the Bangladesh Awami League supporters shouting during their participation in a demonstration before the December 30 general election in Dhaka on December 27, 2018.
A supporter of the Bangladesh Awami League supporters shouting during their participation in a demonstration before the December 30 general election in Dhaka on December 27, 2018.
Freedom of speech campaign
Opposition figures are not the only ones who feel pressure. Media groups and press freedom complained of harassment and threats before the vote.
In October, the government approved a controversial new law on digital security that human rights groups fear will further undermine press freedoms and silence dissenting voices over the Internet.
Amnesty International said it had imposed “serious restrictions on freedom of expression” and suggested that it could be used against opposition voices.
The Dhaka-based Odkar Group has highlighted what it called “enforced disappearance” of opposition leaders, students and activists.
In September alone, the Human Rights Group claims that 30 people were picked up by law enforcement agencies without explanation – a sharp jump from a total of 28 people in the first eight months of the year.
One of the detainees in 2018 was prominent photojournalist Shahidul Alam, who was jailed for months after an interview with Al-Jazeera in which he accused the government of clinging to power through “brute force.”
Allam was released in November after international outrage.
A joint statement by 25 human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International, called for the immediate and unconditional release of Allam and criticized the allegations against him as a “gross violation of his right to free access”.

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