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Business News/ Elections / Bangladesh Polls in jeopardy? Opposition parties begin 48-hour strike on election eve
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Bangladesh Polls in jeopardy? Opposition parties begin 48-hour strike on election eve

Opposition parties in Bangladesh have called for a 48-hour general strike ahead of Sunday's controversial general elections, citing concerns about fairness in the poll process.

Dhaka University students hold a rally along a roadside in the capital on January 6, 2024 urging people to boycott Bangladesh's general elections on the eve of it's commencement. Bangladesh votes on January 7, in an election guaranteed to give Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina her fifth term in office, after a boycott by opposition parties whose ranks have been decimated by mass arrests (AFP)Premium
Dhaka University students hold a rally along a roadside in the capital on January 6, 2024 urging people to boycott Bangladesh's general elections on the eve of it's commencement. Bangladesh votes on January 7, in an election guaranteed to give Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina her fifth term in office, after a boycott by opposition parties whose ranks have been decimated by mass arrests (AFP)

Bangladesh Elections: On the eve of the much controversial general elections, opposition parties in Bangladesh have started a 48-hour general strike, citing incumbent Prime Minister and Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina's inability to guarantee fairness in the poll process. 

Many opposition parties have boycotted the Bangladesh elections, scheduled to be held on Sunday, 7 January. 

Sheikh Hasina is seeking to return to power for a fourth consecutive term. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former premier Khaleda Zia, has vowed to disrupt the election through the strike and boycott.

On Saturday morning, a small group of party supporters marched across the Shahbagh neighborhood in the capital, Dhaka, calling on people to join the strike. Another rally by about 200 left-wing protesters took place outside the National Press Club to denounce the election.

The Election Commission said ballot boxes and other election supplies had been distributed in preparation for the vote on Sunday in over 42,000 precincts. There are more than 119 million registered voters.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a BNP senior official, repeated his party's demand for Hasina to resign, calling the election “skewed." “The government is again playing with fire. The government has resorted to its old tactics of holding a one-sided election," he said.

Campaigning in the nation of 169 million people has been marred with violence, with at least 15 people killed since October.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal told reporters on Saturday that the parliamentary election would be free and fair, adding, “We want our election to be observed not only nationally, but internationally as well."

Responding to questions on the main opposition shunning the vote, Awal said that had the BNP participated, the election would have been “more competitive" and “more festive." He acknowledged that the recent violence may have a negative impact on voters turning up on Sunday.

On Friday, an apparent arson on a train in the capital, Dhaka, killed four people. Mahid Uddin, an additional police commissioner with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the fire was “clearly an act of sabotage" aimed at scaring people ahead of the election. He did not name any political party or groups as suspects, but said police would seek those responsible.

The Election Commission has asked authorities to increase security around polling stations.

Bangladesh Elections 2024: An outlook

Bangladesh's increasingly polarized political culture has been dominated by a struggle between two powerful women, Hasina and Zia

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy but has a history of military coups and assassinations.

Zia, head of the BNP, is ailing and currently under house arrest. Her party says the charges were politically motivated.

Tensions spiked since October when a massive anti-government rally demanding Hasina’s resignation and a caretaker government to oversee the election turned violent. 

Hasina's administration said there was no constitutional provision to allow a caretaker government.

Critics have accused Hasina of systemically suffocating the opposition by implementing repressive security measures. 

(With AP inputs)

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Published: 06 Jan 2024, 06:06 PM IST
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