19 killed in Bangladesh polls hit by violence, opposition boycott

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SummaryPoor turnout would give Opposition the chance to question legitimacy of Sunday's elections.

The ruling Awami League was today poised to win Bangladesh's general election marred by deadly clashes, a low turnout and a boycott by opposition parties, even as 19 people were killed in poll-related violence.

Most voters preferred to stay at home fearing violence

during the polling in 147 out of 300 constituencies in 59 districts. Candidates in other constituencies would be declared elected unopposed due to the boycott, officials said.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia boycotted the polls after her arch-rival and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the opposition's demand for a neutral caretaker regime for election oversight.

Deadly violence flared across the country despite tens of thousands of security personnel deployed to maintain law and order. Police said 16 people, mostly opposition cadres, and a security personnel were killed today after the overnight deaths of an election officer and two other persons.

A total of 390 candidates, mostly from the Awami League and its ally Jatiya Party, contested from 147 seats where the number of voters was nearly 44 million.

Protesters hurled crude bombs at polling centres and stole ballot papers during the "one-sided" contest boycotted by the opposition. Voting was suspended at 160 centres due to torching of booths and snatching of ballot boxes and papers. Opposition cadres set over 200 polling stations on fire.

Hasina's Awami League was set for a sweeping victory in the polls as the outcome was never in doubt because of the boycott. The party expressed satisfaction at the turnout.

"The party which will win the election will form the government and run the country," top Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed said.

While BNP said the people have said no to the "one-sided" polls. "People have rejected the government by saying no to its expectation of clutching to power through the one-sided election," BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said soon after polling ended.

The opposition yesterday enforced a 48-hour nationwide strike aimed at derailing the polls. It today announced another 48-hour strike beginning tomorrow. The opposition alliance will enforce the fresh shutdown alongside the ongoing indefinite blockade of rail, roads and waterways.

The Election Commission has not yet announced the official turnout in 10th parliamentary election.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said boycott by some political parties and thick fog were reasons for the low voter turnout. He, however, claimed the polls were "fair".

The counting of votes started soon after polling ended at

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