Pavel Rahman/AP
Sheikh Hasina

Observers Hail Peaceful Elections in Bangladesh, Despite Some Clashes

December 29, 2008 05:25 PM
by Josh Katz
Voting is complete in Bangladesh’s first election in seven years and the process appears largely peaceful, save 18 reported injuries.
Although the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) indicates that the day of voting in Bangladesh was “mostly peaceful and orderly,” there are reports of violence. The Associated Press says that violence in southwestern Bangladesh has resulted in injuries to 18 people.  According to AP, the United News of Bangladesh agency says that the fighting erupted in the Madaripur district, 45 miles southwest of the capital of Dhaka, between supporters of opposing parties.

To prevent clashes and voting fraud in a country known for political upheaval, the authorities dispersed 650,000 police officers and soldiers across Bangladesh.

The polls have closed, but ABC News reports that the outcome will likely not be known until Tuesday. Observers put the turnout at 70 percent or more; the country’s population is more than 140 million.

Unofficial results indicate that the alliance led by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is in line for a “landslide victory,” winning 168 of the 300 seats in the Parliament, according to The Hindu. Before the election, political analysts thought the election was going to be “razor’s edge” close, with no party grabbing an overwhelming number of votes.

An army-backed interim government has led the country in emergency rule for the past two years. The country’s last election occurred seven years ago, AP writes. In 2007, Bangladesh attempted to hold elections, but the military abandoned the elections amid violence.

The two main candidates in the election, former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, “have traded power back and forth for 15 years in successive governments marked by corruption, mismanagement and paralyzing protests,” according to AP. Zia won the position of prime minister is 1991, and then again in 2001. Hasina was elected in 1996.

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