The general elections in Bangladesh were marked this Sunday by low participation and a boycott by opposition parties, as well as by violent episodes that left several dead. The elections are expected to result in the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, as the winner, reports Efe. The first official results will begin to be provided first thing on Monday.

The Bangladeshi Electoral Commission recorded a turnout of 40% – a historic low that represents half that of the last elections, in 2018 – in the Asian country, where more than 113 million people were called to the polls.

Some 1,900 candidates from up to 28 political parties – most of them belonging to Hasina’s Awami League or supported by this formation – competed for 299 of the 300 parliamentary seats up for grabs, after the authorities suspended voting in a constituency for the death of a candidate.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies boycotted the elections due to Hasina’s refusal to dissolve her government and appoint an interim administration to oversee the elections. In addition to not presenting candidates, the BNP called a 48-hour general strike that began yesterday to discourage voters from going to the polls. The opposition group has denounced a campaign of state repression over recent months, with more than 24,000 of its leaders and followers arrested by security forces.

Along with the BNP, dozens of anti-Government parties decided not to participate in the elections, since they considered that they would not be free or fair. They also feared that the irregularities of the previous elections would be repeated, won by Prime Minister Hasina, in office since 2009, and who already led a first term between 1996 and 2001.

In the absence of real opposition, Hasina, 76, said she had no doubts about her victory, which would allow her to take the reins of the Asian country for the fourth consecutive time. “The BNP is a terrorist organization,” the president told reporters as she left her polling station in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. “I am doing everything I can to ensure that democracy continues in this country,” she said, ensuring that the electoral process was “free and fair.”

However, as international agencies were able to gather, some voters said they were threatened with confiscation of their government benefit cards, needed to obtain social assistance, if they refused to vote for the Awami League. “They said that since the government feeds us, we should vote for it,” Lal Mia, 64, told France Presse.

Human rights groups have long warned against the authoritarian drift of Hasina’s Awami League government.

Authorities yesterday reported at least 18 attacks across the country since Friday night, 10 of them against polling places. Four people died that day in a fire set against a passenger train heading to the capital, Dhaka. Hostilities reached a boiling point in late October after a massive BNP rally in Dhaka sparked clashes with police.