Bangladesh polls: Sheikh Hasina wins new term as prime minister

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina speaks to the media persons after casting her vote in Dhaka Bangladesh

Opposition leader Kamal Hossain said their alliance, National Unity Front led by the BNP, had called on the Election Commission to order a fresh vote under a neutral administration "as soon as possible", alleging Sunday's poll was flawed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gestures after casting her vote during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 30, 2018. He said they would hold a meeting Monday to decide their next course.

A police official was not immediately available to confirm the deaths reported from Lakshmipur and Chattogram districts in southeastern Bangladesh.

More than a dozen people are reported to have been killed in election-related violence in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of opposition workers were arrested in the months before the election on charges that the opposition said were " fictitious", and many said they were attacked by ruling party activists, crippling their ability to campaign.

"We ask that you cancel this election right away", Hossain urged the Election Commission, claiming, "we have reports that fraudulence took place in nearly all centres".

The alliance dominated by Hasina's Awami League, seen as close to regional power India, won 287 of the 298 seats for which results have been declared for the 300-strong parliament, the commission said.

"Hasina's use of the state machinery to subjugate the opposition virtually ensures her electoral victory", said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, a South Asia analyst for the New York-based Eurasia Group.

The leadership of Bangladesh has alternated between Hasina and Zia, allies-turned-foes, over the last three decades.

Wazed dismissed accusations that the ruling party had "manipulated" police and the judiciary to get BNP chief and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia jailed in February on corruption charges to weaken the opposition before the election.

In the first hours of voting, after voting in Dhanmondi, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she was confident about Awami League's victory, and pro-liberation forces will come out victorious.

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Hossain, an 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer, is a former member of Hasina's Awami League party.

Overall, the election was also marred by reports of voter intimidation, rigging and "ballot stuffing" - a term used in Bangladesh to denote that ballot boxes have been stuffed with votes even before the voting process begun.

More than half of the 300 parliamentary seats were uncontested.

Annual growth in the Muslim-majority country of 165 million people rose to 7.8 percent in the 2017/18 financial year that ended on June 30, compared with 5.1 percent when Hasina took over in 2008/09.

Walking with a cane, Hossain cast his vote near his home in Dhaka, saying he was receiving complaints about vote-tampering and intimidation from various parts of the country.

The voting started at 8:00 a.m. local time on Sunday at around 40,000 polling stations nationwide and will continue without a break until 4:00 p.m. local time.

The 47-year-old, who entered politics reluctantly and has declined to take a senior position in the ruling Awami League, said he was not keen on becoming prime minister.

Authorities ordered mobile operators to shut down high speed internet services until midnight Sunday "to prevent the spread of rumours" that could trigger unrest.

Voting in the capital Dhaka was largely peaceful as convoys of soldiers and paramilitary forces were on the streets where most traffic was banned.

At one polling station, Istiaq Ahmed, a doctor in Dhaka, said it was critical that people "select the right government to maintain the development and enrich our country further".

"I think the country has already developed much and it will be developed more", she said in Bengali.

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