Sheikh Hasina Secures Fourth Term Amid Opposition Boycott and Low Voter Turnout

Sheikh Hasina Secures Fourth Term Amid Opposition Boycott and Low Voter Turnout

DHAKA - Sheikh Hasina secures a historic fourth consecutive term as Bangladesh's Prime Minister, leading her Awami League party to an absolute majority in the general election, as confirmed by the election commission on Monday. Notably, the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the polls, demanding Hasina's resignation and the appointment of a neutral authority, leading to a low voter turnout.

The daughter of Bangladesh's founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina, 76, first assumed office in 1996 and is now set for her fifth term. Over the past 15 years, she has been lauded for economic reforms and overseeing the growth of the garment industry. International acclaim was also received for providing shelter to Rohingya Muslims escaping persecution in Myanmar.

Despite concerns about a one-party rule, Hasina's Awami League clinched 167 seats out of 227, with additional results pending. Turnout was approximately 40%, a stark contrast to the 80% recorded in the 2018 election. Notably, rights groups warned of potential concerns regarding democratic pluralism.

"I am trying my best to ensure that democracy should continue in this country," stated Hasina, emphasizing her accountability to the citizens of Bangladesh. She urged her party not to engage in victory processions or celebrations.

Among the notable winners from the ruling party were actor Ferdous Ahmed and former cricket captains Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza. Independent candidates, many affiliated with the Awami League, secured 49 seats.

The BNP accused the ruling party of supporting 'dummy' independent candidates to lend credibility to the election, a charge vehemently denied by the Awami League. The BNP's two-day nationwide strike against the election contributed to the low voter turnout, according to the opposition.

Amid accusations of instigating anti-government protests, Hasina blamed the opposition for the recent unrest in Dhaka, resulting in at least 14 fatalities. A passenger train fire on Friday claimed four lives, termed as arson by the government. Several incidents of arson were reported in the lead-up to the election, including attacks on polling booths, schools, and a Buddhist monastery.

Critics have accused Hasina of authoritarianism, human rights violations, and curbing free speech. Additionally, economic challenges surfaced, with a notable slowdown attributed to the Russia-Ukraine war, prompting Bangladesh to seek a $4.7 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund last year.

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