Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, left, has been accused of being autocratic, while Zhaleda Zia, right, remains in jail for corruption. Photos: AFP & Reuters

More than 20,000 paramilitary guards have been deployed across Bangladesh to provide security ahead of the general election on December 30, The Bangladesh Chronicle has reported.

At least six people have been killed in clashes over the past week and the ruling Awami League, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, both accuse each other of being responsible for the violence.

Two Awami League activists were killed in clashes with BNP supporters last week, while 152 out of 300 opposition candidates have been attacked while campaigning.

The BNP boycotted the last election in 2014, claiming it was rigged by the Awami League. But around 100 million voters have registered for this ballot.

Hasina vs Zia

Hasina, who The Bangladesh Chronicle says has been accused of presiding over growing authoritarianism, is seeking a fourth term in office.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for graft.

Both parties have unveiled their election manifestos, with the Awami League asking voters to take a lenient view of any mistakes committed by their government and promising to put the country on a “highway to development”.

Meanwhile, the BNP has pledged to scrap “all black laws” including the Digital Security Act, the Official Secrets Act and Special Power Acts to facilitate freedom of speech and expression.

Zia, 73, is the widow of Ziaur Rahman, an army general who served as the country’s president from 1977 until he was assassinated in 1981.

Hasina, 71, is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who founded Bangladesh in 1971 and became its first president. He was also assassinated, in 1975.