Bangladesh police's elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) women personnel guard a street on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Image Credit: AP

Dhaka: Update: At least 12 people were killed in election-day clashes in Bangladesh Sunday, after a bloody campaign overshadowed by a crackdown on the opposition by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is expected to win a historic but controversial fourth term.

Three men were shot by police while eight others died in clashes between activists from the ruling Awami League Party and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), police said.

An auxiliary police member was killed after being attacked by opposition activists armed with guns and sticks, according to officials.

Voting, which ended at 4pm (1000 GMT), was held under tight security. Polls have predicted that Hasina will clinch a third-consecutive term and record fourth overall.

Bangladesh's leader has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during an unbroken decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition - including arch-rival Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges - to cling on to power.

The election campaign was marred by violence between supporters of Hasina's Awami League and Zia's BNP.

Some 600,000 security personnel were deployed across the South Asian country, including at 40,000 polling stations.

Authorities ordered mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday "to prevent the spread of rumours" that could trigger unrest.

The election-day deaths brought to 16 the official police toll for election violence since the ballot was announced on November 8.

Police said they acted "in self-defence" in the southern town of Bashkhali, when they opened fire on opposition supporters who attempted to storm a polling booth, killing one.

In a separate incident another man was shot by police after he tried to steal a ballot box.

Opinion polls show Hasina, who has presided over six percent GDP expansion every year since she won a landslide in 2008, heading for a comfortable victory that would extend her reign as the country's longest-serving leader.

She needs 151 seats in the first-past-the-post system to control the 300-seat parliament but experts say a victory would be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung her opponents' campaign and scared people into voting for her.

The opposition says more than 15,000 of its activists have been detained during the weeks-long campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise grassroots support.

"We are getting disturbing reports outside Dhaka that overnight votes have been cast illegally," said Kamal Hossain, the 82-year-old architect of Bangladesh's constitution who is helming the opposition coalition.

Presiding officers at polling stations across Dhaka reported a low turnout.

Human Rights Watch and other international groups have decried the crackdown, saying it has created a climate of fear which could prevent opposition supporters from casting ballots.

The United States has raised concerns about the credibility of the Muslim-majority country's election while the United Nations called for greater efforts to make the vote fair.

Seventeen opposition candidates have been arrested over what they claim are trumped-up charges while another 17 were disqualified from running by courts, which Hasina's opponents say are government controlled.

"This is not (a) free and fair election. It is more a controlled selection," said a Western diplomat who asked not to be named.


Polls closed in a Bangladesh general election on Sunday that was marred by the deaths of at least 12 people in vote-related clashes.

Voting ended at 4:00 pm (1000 GMT) in the election which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to win but has been overshadowed by a crackdown on opposition activists.


At least 10 people were killed in election-day clashes in Bangladesh Sunday, after a bloody campaign overshadowed by a crackdown on the opposition by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is expected to win a historic but controversial fourth term.

Three men were shot by police while six others died in clashes between activists from the ruling Awami League Party and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), police said.

An auxiliary police member was killed after being attacked by opposition activists armed with guns and sticks, according to officials.


A leading Bangladeshi news channel has been taken off the air, officials said Sunday as the country votes for a new government amid allegations of a media crackdown.

The private Jamuna TV said the action was taken late Saturday.

"Cable operators took Jamuna TV off air without giving us any explanation," Fahim Ahmed, the station's chief news editor, told AFP.

"We are still transmitting. But no one in Bangladesh can see our channel due to the blackout," he said. The channel's output can still be seen online.

The broadcaster, which is owned by Jamuna Group - one of Bangladesh's biggest conglomerates, which also runs a newspaper - is known for its independent coverage.

Salma Islam, a member of the family that owns the group, stood in Sunday's election as an independent candidate against an influential ruling party businessman.

A top cable operator in Dhaka said Jamuna broadcasts stopped for technical rather than political reasons.

"We are not getting their signal," said S.M Ali Chanchal, owner of cable operator UCS. Jamuna rejected the explanation and insisted their signals were being broadcast as normal.

Authorities have also ordered the country's mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday "to prevent the spread of rumours" that could trigger unrest.

There have been mounting accusations that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has been stifling dissent and curbing freedom of the press ahead of Sunday's election.

Internationally renowned photographer Shahidul Alam was detained for nearly four months after he was accused of making false and provocative statements against Hasina on Facebook.

Two pro-opposition editors have been detained for months over what they say are trumped-up charges while the editors of two influential dailies were accused of sedition and scores of other defamation cases.

In recent months Hasina's government has also strengthened a digital security law, which rights groups and journalists have said makes investigative journalism almost impossible.


Death toll in Bangladesh election day violence jumps to five, say police.

Three people were killed in skirmishes between activists of the ruling Awami League party and supporters of the main Bangladesh Nationalist Party opposition in separate incidents.

Two others were shot dead by police, one after he tried to steal a ballot box and the other when opposition activists attempted to storm a polling station, according to officers.


Two people were killed in election-related clashes in Bangladesh on Sunday, police said, following a deadly campaign marred by outbreaks of violence.

One person died when police opened fire on opposition activists in the southern town of Bashkhali and a ruling party activist was beaten to death in the southeastern hill district of Rangamati, according to officers.


Voters headed to the polls in Bangladesh on Sunday following a campaign that was dominated by deadly violence and allegations of a crackdown on thousands of opposition activists by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.

Electors began casting ballots at 8am (0200 GMT) under tight security in a vote that is expected to deliver an historic but tainted fourth victory for Hasina.

Bangladesh's leader has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor Asian nation during an unbroken decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

600000

security personnel deployed across Bangladesh.

But critics accuse her of growing authoritarianism and crippling the opposition - including arch-rival Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges she says are politically motivated - in a bid to cling on to power.

The weeks-long election campaign was marred by violence between supporters of her ruling Awami League party and activists from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Zia.

Some 600,000 security personnel were deployed across the South Asian country, including at 40,000 polling stations, in a bid to prevent further skirmishes.

Authorities have also ordered the country's mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday "to prevent the spread of rumours" that could trigger unrest.

There was fresh violence on the eve of the vote, however, when a ruling party activist was allegedly killed by supporters of the BNP and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami.

"He was attacked with rocks. He died on the way to hospital," Mohammad Niamutullah, police chief in the southern town of Patia, told AFP.

The death brought to four the number of people confirmed killed by police since the election was announced on November 8, marking the country's 11th parliamentary election since independence in 1971.

The BNP claims eight of its activists have died.

Opinion polls show Hasina, who has presided over 6 per cent GDP expansion every year since she won a landslide in December 2008, heading for a comfortable victory that would extend her reign as the country's longest-serving leader.

Free and fair? 

She needs 151 seats in the first-past-the-post system to win in the 300-seat parliament but experts say any victory would be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung her opponents' campaign.

The opposition says more than 15,000 of its activists have been detained during the weeks-long campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise its grassroots support.

Human Rights Watch and other international groups have decried the crackdown, saying it has created a climate of fear which could prevent supporters of opposition parties from casting their ballots.

The United States has also raised concerns about the credibility of the Muslim-majority country's election while the United Nations has called for greater efforts to make the vote fair.

Seventeen opposition candidates were arrested over what they claim are trumped up charges while another 17 were disqualified from running by courts which are allegedly controlled by Hasina.

"This is not (a) free and fair election. It is more a controlled selection," said a Western diplomat who has been monitoring the run-up to the polls and who asked not to be named.

Badiul Alam Majumder, the leader of a Bangladesh civil society group, said the alleged crackdown had "created a perception that the incumbent government will return to power".

"Never in my life I have seen such kind of election. The election commission has totally failed to do its job," he told AFP.

Student protests 

Hasina rejects accusations of creeping authoritarianism but analysts say she has mounted a crackdown over fears that young voters were set to hand a victory to the BNP.

Her government was criticised earlier this year for its heavy handling of weeks of massive student protests over the abolition of job quotas and the standard of safety on Bangladesh's dangerous roads.

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was gifted victory in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it wasn't free or fair.

Since then, rights groups have accused Hasina's administration of stifling freedom of speech through the toughening of a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of government dissenters.

The Bangladeshi leadership has alternated between Hasina and Zia, former allies-turned-foes, over the last three decades and the pair are nicknamed the "Battling Begums".

Around 104 million people are registered to vote. Polls close at 4pm (1000 GMT).