Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was heading for a landslide victory in a general election Sunday that was tarnished by opposition allegations of vote-rigging and clashes between rival supporters that left at least 17 people dead.
Her ruling Awami League party easily exceeded the 151 seats needed to form a majority government, according to local TV station Channel 24, which was compiling results from around the country.
As midnight approached, the Awami League and its allies had won 191 seats – some by tens of thousands of votes – while the opposition coalition had only five, the channel said.
The alliance running against Hasina, led by the main opposition Bangladesh National Party, described the vote as “farcical” and called on the country’s election commission to void the results.
“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible,” Kamal Hossain, who heads the coalition, told journalists.
Deadly violence and bitter rivalry that marred the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even as officials imposed tight security. deploying 600,000 troops, police and other security forces across the country.
Thirteen people were killed in clashes between Awami League and BNP supporters, police said, while three men were shot by police who said they were protecting polling booths.
An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists, according to officials.
The BNP-led opposition alliance on Sunday accused 71-year-old Hasina’s party of stuffing ballot boxes and other dirty tricks to fix the result, which is expected to be officially announced by the election commission on Monday.
BNP spokesman Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal told reporters there were “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats contested.
“Voters are not allowed to enter booths. Especially women voters are being forced to vote for the boat,” Alal said, referring to the Awami League symbol.
Bangladesh election commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman told AFP the body had “received a few allegations of irregularities” and was investigating.
Hasina did not immediately respond to the allegations but declared in the run-up to the vote that it would be free and fair.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse