Election officials in Bangladesh said Monday an alliance led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a huge majority, clearing the way for her to serve a third straight term while opponents rejected the result.
The Awami League-led group won at least 288 of 300 seats.
An opposition alliance led by Kamal Hossain won at least six seats, according to the Election Commission.
Hossain called Sunday’s election “farcical” and said the outcome will be rejected. Hossain also called for a new election held under a neutral authority.
Opponents have criticized reports of voter intimidation and “irregularities” in the election.
Violence between the ruling and opposition parties which marred the election campaigns carried on into election day, despite heavy security throughout the country, including 600,000 troops and other security forces deployed across the country.
Thirteen people were killed in clashes between opposing party supporters, and three men were shot by police who said they were protecting polling stations, according to police. An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists, according to the French Press Agency.
Voter turnout in the country of 165 million people was low in the first fully competitive general election in a decade.
“I believe the people of Bangladesh will vote for the boat (Awami League symbol) and will give us another opportunity to serve them so that we can maintain our upward trend of development, and take Bangladesh forward as a developing country,” Hasina said Sunday.
Hasina’s main rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is in prison on corruption charges and a court has banned her from running.
In Zia’s absence, opposition parties have formed a coalition led by Hossain, an 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer and former member of Hasina’s Awami League party.
“I told everybody over the phone that, besides sending me the complaints, let the returning officers, and their superiors and newspapers know about everything that you all are witnessing. Besides talking to you, we are going to collect the complaints and share them with both the government and election commission,” Hossain said.
A Duke University team expects to have a product available for election year that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate.
The mystery is whether any network will choose to use it.
The response to President Donald Trump’s Jan. 8 speech on border security illustrated how fact-checking is likely to be an issue over the next two years. Networks briefly considered not airing Trump live and several analysts contested some of his statements afterward, but nobody questioned him while he was speaking.
Duke already offers an app, developed by professor and Politifact founder Bill Adair, that directs users to online fact checks during political events. A similar product has been tested for television, but is still not complete.
The TV product would call on a database of research from Politifact, Factcheck.org and The Washington Post to point out false or misleading statements onscreen. For instance, Trump’s statement that 90 percent of the heroin that kills 300 Americans each week comes through the southern border would likely trigger an onscreen explanation that much of the drugs were smuggled through legal points of entry and wouldn’t be affected by a wall.
The Duke Tech & Check Cooperative conducted a focus group test in October, showing viewers portions of State of the Union speeches by Trump and predecessor Barack Obama with fact checks inserted. It was a big hit, Adair said.
“People really want onscreen fact checks,” he said. “There is a strong market for this and I think the TV networks will realize there’s a brand advantage to it.”
If that’s the case, the networks aren’t letting on. None of the broadcast or cable news divisions would discuss Duke’s product when contacted by The Associated Press, or their own philosophies on fact checking.
Network executives are likely to tread very carefully, both because of technical concerns about how it would work, the risk of getting something wrong or the suspicion that some viewers might consider the messages a political attack.
“It’s an incredibly difficult challenge,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, longtime NBC News executive who recently became dean of Hofstra University’s communications school.
Adair said the system will be automated. Mindful that many politicians repeat similar claims, the database will be triggered when code phrases that have been fact-checked before come up. An onscreen note would either explain that a claim is false or misleading and direct viewers to a website where they can find more information, or provide a succinct explanation of why it is being challenged. He envisions an average of one fact check popping up every two minutes. A network using the service would likely air the speech or debate on a delayed basis of about a minute.
Lukasiewicz said network executives would likely be wary of letting an outside vendor decide what goes on their screen. Adair said anyone who uses the system would be given veto power over what information is being displayed.
CNN and MSNBC have been most aggressive in using onscreen notes, called chyrons, to counter misleading statements by Trump, although neither did during the border speech. Among the post-speech analyses, Shepard Smith’s rapid-fire reality check on Fox broadcast during the three-minute pause before Democrats spoke was particularly effective. But critics like the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America said anyone who turned the coverage off when Trump stopped speaking was exposed to no questioning of his words.
“There is a responsibility to not just be a blind portal and just let things go unchallenged,” said David Bohrman, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who consulted on MSNBC’s 2016 election coverage. “The goal is a good one. The execution is a challenge.”
A technical junkie, Bohrman said he explored different approaches for real-time TV fact-checking while at CNN, but they ultimately proved too complicated and cumbersome.
For networks, an incorrect onscreen fact-check would be a public relations disaster. Politicians also make many statements that a critic might question but isn’t necessarily factually incorrect. For example, Trump’s contention that there is a “crisis” at the southern border: Is that a fact or matter of interpretation?
Rest assured, people will be watching. Very carefully.
Even Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center, concedes that “we all understand that President Trump has a casual approach to factivity.”
But conservatives are deeply suspicious that Trump’s words are being watched more carefully than those of Democrats. They will notice and take offense if Trump is corrected on the air much more than his rivals, he said, no matter if Trump actually makes more false or misleading statements.