Opposition groups called for a boycott of the by-elections, saying that the political climate was “barred” from participating in the “fair process”.
At least seven people have been killed in election violence in Bangladesh as voters elected representatives of rural councils on Thursday, November 11, 2021 in an election expected to boost the ruling party amid growing concerns over the country’s democracy.
Opponents of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the by-elections, saying political instability was a barrier to fair participation. Well-known allegations of malpractice have been made in the last two elections, and political violence has disrupted voting in the past in Bangladesh, especially in rural councils.
By the end of Thursday, it was not clear how many members of the ruling Awami League were elected leaders of the local councils.
Groups used rifles and spears to prevent rivals from reaching the polling station in Narsingdi village in central Bangladesh, killing three people, said Satyajt Kumar Ghosh, a senior police officer. At least 20 people were injured in the riots, he said.
Another man died while fighting in the southern region of Cox’s Bazar, newspaper Prothom Alo reports. Six other people were injured in the area, the newspaper reported.
Two people have been killed in the eastern part of Cumilla and another has died in the southeastern Chattogram area in a series of deadly violence, the Daily Star reported.
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda warned of electoral violence ahead of Thursday and said security measures were in place to deal with any situation.
Before the vote this month, at least nine people have been killed and hundreds injured in campaign violence. As of January, 85 people have been killed and more than 6,000 injured in Bangladeshi-related violence, according to Dhaka human rights activist Ain-o-Salish Kendra.
In Thursday’s by-elections, more than 15 million eligible voters elected representatives to 835 councils after being suspended in some constituencies for alleged wrongdoing or violence.
4,571 councils, known as co-operative parishes responsible for promoting local development and care for competing constituencies. In the first phase of June, 204 local government elections were held, with 148 ruling party representatives winning and independent candidates taking the reins.
Investigators say Thursday’s election is an opportunity for the ruling Awami League ruling party Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to relinquish his responsibilities ahead of the 2023. general election.
Since 1991, when Bangladesh returned to democracy, in the 2008 elections, Hasina and her rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, took turns ruling the country.
Hasina’s biggest victory in 2008 was the most recent election that was accepted as free and fair and the Zia party boycotted several elections since then.