Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is heading towards a fifth term after her party’s victory on Sunday January 7 following legislative elections boycotted by the main opposition party which denounced a “sham election”.

The Awami League, to which it belongs, “won more than 50% of the seats” in the unicameral parliament, a spokesperson for the electoral commission told Agence France-Presse (AFP), a few hours after the close of the election. ballot.

Somoy TV, the largest private television channel in the country of 170 million people, had earlier reported that Hasina was assured of victory, with the League and its allies having won at least 60% of the 300 parliamentary seats.

If the head of government, in power since 2009, is credited with having fostered dazzling economic growth in the eighth most populous country in the world, once plagued by extreme poverty, her government is accused of serious violations of human rights and for having carried out a ruthless repression against the opposition.

After voting in Dhaka, the 76-year-old prime minister called on voters to go to the polls, promising “free and fair” elections. She, in passing, denounced the boycott of the vote by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition component, which she described as a “terrorist organization”.

The BNP, for its part, denounced “a sham election”. The vote was also boycotted by other parties, decimated like it in recent months by mass arrests. The Awami League had virtually no opponents in the constituencies it contested, but did not field candidates in a few others, apparently to avoid the unicameral Parliament being seen as the instrument of a single party . Among those elected by the ruling party are Shakib Al Hasan, captain of the national cricket team, the national sport, according to the media.

” Shame “

The head of the national electoral commission, Habibul Awal, estimated turnout during the day at around 40%. Many Bangladeshis interviewed by AFP said they did not vote, believing that the vote was a foregone conclusion.

“Why would I go to vote when we have one party participating and the other not? said Mohammad Saidur, a 31-year-old rickshaw driver. “We all know who will win,” added Farhana Manik, a 27-year-old student.

The leader of the BNP, Tarique Rahman, who went into exile in London, denounced ballot stuffing. “What took place is not an election, but rather a disgrace to Bangladesh’s democratic aspirations,” he wrote on social media, adding that he had seen “disturbing photos and videos.”

Many witnesses reported various incentives, even blackmail, from the authorities to encourage participation. Some voters say they were threatened with confiscation of their government benefit cards, necessary to obtain social benefits, if they refused to vote for the Awami League.

“They said since the government is feeding us, we should vote for it,” Lal Mia, 64, who is voting in the central Faridpur district, told AFP.

Mass arrests

The BNP and other parties protested unsuccessfully for months late last year, demanding Hasina’s resignation and the formation of a non-political caretaker government to oversee the elections.

Some 25,000 opposition officials, including all local BNP leaders, were arrested after the protests, during which several people were killed in clashes with police, according to the party. The government, for its part, reported 11,000 arrests.

In Chittagong, in the east of the country, police fired on Sunday, without causing any injuries, to disperse around sixty opposition activists who had set up a roadblock to protest against the holding of the vote, according to local police. Nearly 700,000 police officers and reservists as well as nearly 100,000 soldiers were deployed for the occasion, according to the electoral commission. Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have long been accused of excessive use of force, which the government denies.

Since returning to power in 2009, Hasina has strengthened her control after two elections marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud. Its economic successes have long fueled its popularity, but difficulties have increased recently, with rising prices and widespread power outages.