Bangladesh's ruling Awami League wins boycotted poll

Fewer than half the seats were contested

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Bangladesh's ruling Awami League has won a violent general election whose outcome was never in doubt, after a boycott by the main opposition party.

Fewer than half the 300 parliamentary seats were contested - reports say the Awami League has a two-thirds majority.

At least 18 people died during Sunday's vote and dozens more in the run-up. Clashes on Monday killed another three.

Voter turnout appears to have been particularly poor, with just over 20% reportedly taking part.

More than 70% voted in the 2008 parliamentary elections, with officials saying the fear of violence and the boycott kept many away this time.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was swift to claim her party had won fairly.

"The people have cast their votes spontaneously, upheld the value of democracy and dumped terrorism. We will form our government," she told a news conference.

But the BBC's Mahfuz Sadique in Dhaka says it remains to be seen whether her new administration is regarded as credible.

Torched

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led a nationwide 48-hour strike beginning on Saturday after its leader Khaleda Zia urged supporters to "completely boycott" what she called a "scandalous farce" of an election.

Ms Hasina had rejected the opposition's demands for her to step down and set up a neutral government to oversee the poll.

The BNP has demanded that results be declared null and void and has called for another 48-hour general strike to begin on Monday.

A polling officer pours ballot papers from a box onto a table to count during parliamentary elections in Dhaka January 5, 2014. With most votes counted, the Awami League has won 105 of the 147 contested seats, reports say
A Bangladeshi woman wanting to cast her vote looks for the polling booth she is registered to vote in at a polling station in Dhaka on January 5, 2014 The poor turnout was blamed on fear of violence and the boycott
A police officer kicks a protester during a clash after protesters attacked and set fire to polling booths in Bogra January 5, 2014 Police clash with opposition activists some of whom tried to set fire to polling booths

Widespread violence erupted across the country on Sunday. Scores of polling stations - many of them schools - were torched, and violent clashes broke out between opposition activists and police.

With most votes counted, the Awami League won 105 of the 147 contested seats, with allied parties or independent candidates taking the remaining 34, reports said.

Repolling will take place in eight constituencies.

The ruling party also held 127 seats that were unopposed, giving it 232 seats in all. A final result is expected later on Monday.

Bitter enemies

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The big question on the morning of 6 January will not be who won but rather, what will happen next?”

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The opposition strike is only the latest in a string of protests by the BNP and its allies - including the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party - that has seen a blockade of roads, railways and waterways and the closure of shops, schools and offices.

In the run-up to the polls, scores of opposition supporters died in police shootings and dozens of commuters were burnt to death by protesters throwing petrol bombs at strike-defying buses.

All elections since 1991 have been held under a neutral caretaker administration to ensure that voting is not fixed.

But the Awami League abolished the caretaker system in 2010, arguing that it was no longer necessary.

The government has insisted the BNP should take part in the polls within the existing constitutional framework.

Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia - who are bitter political enemies - have alternated from government to opposition for most of the past two decades.

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