Sheikh Hasina becomes Bangladesh PM for 5th time

South Asia World

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday won an absolute majority and a fourth consecutive term in the general election, as many had predicted, despite poor voter turnout and a boycott by the main opposition.

The primary opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which did not vote in 2014 but did so in 2018, abstained from the polls in protest of Hasina’s refusal to step down and let an impartial body oversee the general election.

Hasina, 76, is the daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who has been serving as prime minister since 1996. 

She has been credited with reviving the economy and the garments industry and has also received international recognition for sheltering Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar. This will be her fifth time overall.

Bangladeshis largely stayed away from Sunday’s election, which was marred by violence. Turnout was about 40% when polls closed, said Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal, compared with over 80% in the last election in 2018.

The ruling Awami League party won 167 out of 227 seats in the election, with the outcome of the remaining seats yet to be announced. Hasina secured 249,962 votes from her constituency in Gopalganj, Dhaka, while her nearest rival secured 469 votes.

Rights groups warned of a one-party rule by Hasina’s Awami League in Bangladesh, a country of 170 million people, while the US and Western nations called for a free and fair election, the 12th since Pakistan’s independence in 1971, Reuters reported.

“I am trying my best to ensure that democracy should continue in this country,” Hasina said on Sunday after casting her vote, adding that her only accountability was to the citizens of Bangladesh.

She has instructed party leaders and supporters not to bring out any victory processions or indulge in celebrations, said Awami League’s general secretary Obaidul Quader.

Polls were held for 299 directly elected parliamentary seats with close to 120 million voters eligible to choose from nearly 2,000 contestants. Election to one seat will be held at a later date after an independent contestant dies ahead of the vote due to natural causes.

Among the ruling party winners were actor Ferdous Ahmed and former Bangladesh cricket captains Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza.

Independent candidates, many of them Awami League party members of various ranks, won 49 seats.

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