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Bangladesh Opposition Denies Election Result, Claims Vote-Rigging

Some were told, inside the polling booth, to vote in a particular manner; others were excluded from voting itself.

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Bangladesh, election
Women stand in a line at a voting center to cast their ballot during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

While Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is preparing to form a government for a record third consecutive term, her party’s landslide win in Sunday’s general elections has been tainted by violence and allegations of vote-rigging.

After reports began piling up of alleged manipulation of votes and voters, as well as reports of opposition party polling agents not being allowed to enter voting centers by ruling party supporters, the Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF), the largest opposition alliance, has called for Sunday’s election to be declared null and void.

JOF chairman Kamal Hossain said a “vote robbery” had taken place across the country.

“We reject the reported results of this farcical election and are calling for a fresh election under a nonpartisan government,” Hossain said.

The election authority, however, rejected the accusation of vote-rigging and said Sunday’s polling would stand.

‘Cannot conduct another…election’

“Across the country, huge number(s) of people enthusiastically took part in the election in a peaceful environment. The 30 December polling has now made way to the formation of a new government. … No, we cannot conduct another fresh election now. This is no way possible at all,” said Bangladesh’s chief election commissioner, Nurul Huda.

Bagladesh, election
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gestures after casting her vote in the morning during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

 

After the Awami League (AL) and its allies won 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats in Sunday’s polling, the election commission said the ruling party would form the government. The main opposition alliance of JOF won six seats.

The country’s first contested election in a decade has been marred by weeks of violence, allegedly unleashed by ruling party supporters, a mass arrest of opposition party leaders and activists, and the deaths of at least 17 people on Sunday.

​The government had promised the election would be free, fair and all-inclusive. Weeks before the election, however, opposition party candidates began reporting attacks by supporters of the ruling Awami League party.

Opposition candidates filed hundreds of complaints with election authorities, alleging ruling party supporters were not allowing them to carry out their campaigns.

Video clips, which claimed to show AL leaders violently threatening opposition party supporters to stay away from polling places, circulated in social media during the run-up to Sunday’s election.

Bangladesh, violence, election
An opposition BNP activist is being arrested by policemen in Dhaka. In 2018, thousands of opposition leaders and activists were arrested in Bangladesh on allegedly trumped up cases of political violence. VOA

 

Allegations of intimidation

The opposition alliance alleged tens of thousands of its polling agents, intimidated by ruling party activists, were forced to stay away from polling stations around the country Sunday.

The alliance also alleged that in the presence of election and security officials, Awami League polling agents and supporters illegally stuffed ballot boxes at many voting centers. One JOF candidate reported that he witnessed AL activists stuffing ballots at a voting center in his constituency. His claim could not be independently verified.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed Sunday’s election was massively rigged by the Awami League and the rigging began starting Saturday evening. BNP, the largest opposition party in Bangladesh, is a member of the JOF alliance.

“We were reported (on Saturday night) that police had entered different voting centers, accompanied by Awami League leaders and activists, before leaving the place after half or one hour. In the presence of the election officials, they stuffed the ballot boxes during the night,” Alamgir said.

Senior AL leader Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the charge of rigging was baseless.

“Can they present any evidence of rigging? Can they show any evidence of any booth being captured by force or some people casting votes fraudulently? They cannot present any evidence in support of their charge. Yet, they are claiming that votes have been rigged,” Hanif told VOA.

Bangladesh, election
An opposition BNP activist is being arrested by policemen in Dhaka. In 2018, thousands of opposition leaders and activists were arrested in Bangladesh on allegedly trumped up cases of political violence. VOA

 

Despite Bangladesh’s chief election commissioner saying no to new elections, JOF chairman Hossain said Tuesday that his alliance would submit a memorandum to the election commission Thursday, calling for a fresh election.

In a statement Tuesday, the European Union said that “Violence has marred the election day, and significant obstacles to a level playing field remained in place throughout the process and have tainted the electoral campaign and the vote.” The EU called for “a proper examination of allegations of irregularities.”

Forming new government

Yet AL is also preparing to form the new government, with winning candidates taking their parliamentary oaths on Thursday. An official noted the process would be completed by January 10.

After declaring victory, Hasina said in an address that her aim is to work for the “welfare of the people” of Bangladesh.

bangladesh, election
Salahuddin Ahmed, a Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) candidate for general election, is seen bleeding as he was stabbed on a election day in Dhaka, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

 

“(Victory in) this election has given me a chance to work for the country for five more years. … I am thankful to all for this,” she said.

Despite the pace of forming a new government, many rights issue groups say the allegations of vote-rigging cannot be ignored.

Iftekharuzzaman (who uses one name), executive director of anti-graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh, called for a judicial probe over the reported cases of rigging in Sunday’s election.

“Conduct of fair probe of such incidents by the EC to determine its deficit and making this public are essential in our view,” Iftekharuzzaman told VOA.

Also Read: Bangladesh Prime Minister Wins Another Term, Opposition Rejects Result

“In addition, ensuring justice through a judicial probe of the allegations of immense value for the credibility, self-confidence and public trust in the government, that is being formed in the wake of an unprecedented outcome of an unprecedented election,” he added.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of the international rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch, said reports that people were not allowed to vote as they wished is a very serious allegation.

“Some were told, inside the polling booth, to vote in a particular manner; others were excluded from voting itself. These are all very serious allegations and the opposition is already calling for a re-poll, and the government must address all these concerns as soon as possible,” Ganguly told VOA. “The international community cannot ignore these allegations and should take them seriously.” (VOA)

Next Story

Declining Crime Rate In US Is Now In ‘Reversed Direction’

After declining for more than two decades, the number of violent crime victims in the United States jumped by 22% over the past three years

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US, Crime, Growth, Risen, Violent, violence
In 90 per cent cases of crime against women, it has been observed that the accused is someone known to victims. Wikimedia Commons

After declining for more than two decades, the number of violent crime victims in the United States jumped by 22% over the past three years, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the Justice Department’s statistics arm.

There were 3.3 million victims of violent crime in 2018, up from 2.7 million in 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey showed. The  annual survey was conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The three-year rise was fueled by increases in the number of victims of rape and sexual assault, which jumped from 204,000 to 347,000; aggravated assault, which rose from 561,000 to 694,000; and simple assault, which grew 1.7 million to 2.1 million.

It is the third consecutive BJS survey to show an increase in the number of violent-crime victims and follows a 60% decline between 1994 and 2015, a period in which crime fell precipitously across the United States.

“The longstanding general trend of declining violent crime in the United States, which began in the 1990s, has reversed direction in recent years,” BJS statisticians Rachel Morgan and Barbara Oudekerk wrote in the report.

US, Crime, Growth, Risen, Violent, violence
A man wears an unloaded pistol during a pro gun-rights rally at the state capitol, Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Gun rights supporters rallied across the United States to counter a recent wave of student-led protests against gun violence. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) VOA

Counter to administration’s claims

The findings contradict the Trump administration’s assertion that it has helped halt a violent crime “epidemic” which it claims was fueled in part by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.

The administration has made fighting violent crime a central focus of its domestic agenda, and officials have pointed to recent FBI crime statistics to take credit for a turnaround.

In prepared remarks to a public safety symposium in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday, Jon Adler, director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, said the administration has “hit our stride” in the fight against violent crime.

“After two years of alarming increase in the crime rate leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, our nation has turned a corner,” Adler said .  “This is a testament, not to some grand federal policy or initiative, but to the hard work and sharp focus of our nation’s front-line law enforcement officers.”

In February, the FBI reported a decline of 4.3% in violent crime during the first six months of 2018 on top of a slight decrease in 2017.  The drop came after an increase of 8% in violent crime in 2015 and 2016.  The FBI data is based on voluntary reporting by thousands of local police departments.

US, Crime, Growth, Risen, Violent, violence
The United States has committed to continue supporting Kenya in enhancing maritime surveillance, countering violent extremism and fighting terrorism. Pixabay

What this means

The recent increase in the crime rate was not as ominous as Trump administration officials claim, according to Andrew Wheeler, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas. The long-term downtrend, however, appears to have plateaued, Wheeler said.

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“I think it’s sufficient to say that there’s good evidence that it’s been increasing the past couple years, because we have the different data sources that are basically all telling us that same information.  But whether or not the increases are alarming or substantive, I’m not sure if the evidence points to that,” Wheeler said.

While BJS statisticians say the recent data point to a reversal in falling violent crime, Wheeler said it is too early to draw any conclusions about long-term trends.

“I’m not real sure if the trend is basically meandering about its average and is going up and or down, or if it’s actually increasing or not,” said Wheeler said. (VOA)