Bangladesh elections: Campaigning ends tomorrow; Sheikh Hasina seeks third term, Opposition says there is atmosphere of fear

Dhaka: Campaigning ends on Friday for Bangladesh's general election on 30 December with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League seeking a third straight term in office even as main opposition BNP is in a crippled state as its leader and former premier Khaleda Zia remains in jail for corruption.

The BNP has alleged that the Awami League government is trying to push it out of the electoral fray.

"The government is applying all its power to oust us from the election," Bangladesh Nationalist Party spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said.

Kamal Hossain, convenor of opposition National Unity Front (NUF) in which BNP is a key partner, called an emergency meeting of the alliance to decide their next course of action.

File image of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Reuters

File image of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Reuters

Rizvi claimed that over 9,200 of BNP activists were arrested since the declaration of the election schedule on 4 December saying "our activists were sued in 806 ghost cases since then to create an atmosphere of fear".

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader, on the other hand, said NUF was trying different "tricks and instigations" to upset the polls and urged people to "beware of their trap and work for the next three days for holding the election with patience".

Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar earlier said he was concerned about increasing violence amid reports that at least six people including Awami League activists were killed in the run up to the election.

"Ensuring all parties take part in the election is not the only issue, the election should also be fair, free and be conducted with due legal process," he said.

Another election commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury however, said "the situation is under control" hoping that Sunday's polls would be free, fair and peaceful.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, meanwhile, called on all stakeholders to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion before, during and after the election in Bangladesh.

Electioneering across the country reached its peaked on Thursday as the campaign is set to end on Friday in line with electoral laws as 1,848 candidates are contesting in 299 out of 300 parliamentary constituencies.

Awami League party activists were parading in the streets with leaflets and while Opposition activists appeared to have largely kept their campaign limited to social media.

Zia, 73, who is serving a 10-year jail sentence on corruption charges, has been barred from contesting the polls.

Her son and acting party chief Tarique Rahman is now living in London ostensibly to evade the law after a court sentenced him to life imprisonment for masterminding a grenade attack in 2004 that killed 24 Awami League leaders and activists.

The absence of the two top Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders has pushed the party into a state of disarray.

The BNP had boycotted the previous 2014 polls demanding an election time neutral non-party government, and instead waged a violent street campaign in subsequent years.

Analysts say political and legal considerations have forced the BNP to take part in the upcoming polls as it could lose its registration with the EC as a political party if it boycotted polls for the second consecutive time even as it faces structural erosion from within.

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Updated Date: Dec 27, 2018 18:07 PM

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