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Landslide victory for Bangladesh ruler in polls hit by violence
[DHAKA] Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's party won almost 90 per cent of the seats to give the premier an unprecedented fourth term in a vote marked by tight security, violence and a crackdown on the opposition.
Hasina's Awami League won 267 of the 299 seats up for a vote, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed told reporters in Dhaka. The victory allows the ruling party to form a government for a third-straight term, and Hasina's fourth as prime minister since 1996. The opposition alliance, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party that called the polls a "farcical election," won seven seats.
The results put Hasina, 71, in position to extend her rule as the longest-serving premier since the nation became independent in 1971. More than 8,000 activists and leaders from the opposition alliance have been arrested since voting was announced in November, according to the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party. BNP leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is now in jail, and her son was recently sentenced in absentia to life in prison.
Hasina, who has overseen a harsh security crackdown after terrorist attacks , pledged to accelerate annual economic growth to 10 per cent in the next five years and add 12.8 million jobs. The message has helped her woo voters in a contested campaign after the opposition decided not to repeat its previous election boycott.
Garment exporters, which account for 13 per cent of gross domestic product and sell to companies including Marks & Spencer Group Plc and Calvin Klein Inc., have benefited from the security. The apparel industry aims to take annual overseas sales to US$50 billion by 2021 from US$30 billion.
Companies are hoping the good economic times can endure this period of heightened volatility in a nation with a long history of political violence.
Still, the government has been criticized by the administration of US President Donald Trump for failing to allow US-sponsored international election monitors into the country, with the State Department issuing a statement on Dec. 21 urging the poll to be conducted free of "harassment, intimidation, or violence."
In response, Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 175 election observers had been accredited, along with 118 local organizations and 25,920 observers who've been approved to monitor the polls.
Bangladesh's parliament has a single 350-seat chamber with 300 elected representatives. Polls for 299 seats were held Sunday.