Bangladesh votes in election without opposition

Early signs suggested turnout would be low, despite widespread reports of carrot-and-stick inducements aimed at bolstering the poll’s legitimacy.

Two hours after voting began, only 111 people had cast ballots out of the nearly 4,200 registered at one polling station in Dhaka’s west, presiding officer Prashun Goswami told AFP.

“I don’t have any interest in participating in this farce,” charity worker Shahriar Ahmed, 32, told AFP.

“I would rather stay home and watch movies.”

Some voters said earlier they had been threatened with the confiscation of government benefit cards needed to access welfare payments if they refused to cast ballots for the ruling Awami League.

“They said since the government feeds us, we have to vote for them,” Lal Mia, 64, told AFP in the central district of Faridpur.

The BNP and other parties staged months of protests last year, demanding Hasina step down ahead of the vote.

Around 25,000 opposition cadres, including the BNP’s entire local leadership, were arrested in the ensuing crackdown, the party says. The government puts the figure at 11,000.

Small and scattered protests continued in the days ahead of the election – a shadow of the hundreds of thousands seen at rallies last year.

The election commission said nearly 700,000 police officers and reservists had been deployed to keep order during the vote along with nearly 100,000 members of the armed forces.

Polls will stay open until 5pm local time, with results expected after midnight.

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