Clashes mar start of Bangladesh election campaign

Clashes mar start of Bangladesh election campaign

DHAKA: Two people have been killed in clashes as official election campaigning got underway in Bangladesh.

The country goes to the polls on Dec. 30, pitting the ruling Awami League against the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Violence left two party workers dead and injured dozens more, media reported, days into the campaign.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday launched her bid to stay in office, addressing a rally in Gopalganj district.

She told the crowd that people were not deprived if they voted for her party, they had a better life.

She said she wanted a prosperous country, free of hunger and poverty, and urged people to vote for the ruling party to maintain ongoing development projects.

Hasina is seeking a third consecutive term in office. Seeking to oust her from power is the BNP-led opposition alliance, called the Jatiya Oikya Front.

Dr. Kamal Hossain offered prayers at the shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal in the eastern city of Sylhet on Wednesday evening. Then he, along with other opposition leaders, headed toward Jaintapur district to address a mass rally.

The national election body wants a violence-free campaign and polling day, but the BNP says the playing field is not level.

The party contacted the chief election commissioner to say its leaders, supporters and activists were being harassed, attacked and arrested.

“We think the chief commissioner is helpless and embarrassed as he is unable to take any action against the crimes committed targeting BNP leaders and supporters,” the BNP’s Selima Rahman told reporters. “We hope that he (election commissioner)takes action — only then will the election be acceptable to all.”

The head of the election body, Nurul Huda, said: “The EC is deeply saddened and embarrassed for such undesired incidents… The worth of a person’s life is much greater than the entire election exercise.”

The Bangladesh Election Commission needs to play a more active role in curbing violence so that voters were not deterred, according to the body’s former chief Shakhawat Hossain.

“To keep a check on violence, the EC has clear guidelines in its code of conducts while the Representation of Public Order (RPO) has also clearly stated the duties during this period,” Hossain told Arab News.

“The EC has already formed 140 inquiry committees and deployed 250 executive magistrates to monitor the elections. In addition, it has its own officers and administrative heads ensuring smooth running of the election process,” he added.

Everything now depended on the EC, its deployment of resources and how it operated, he added.

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