(Eds: Updates with CEC quotes, more details) Dhaka, Dec 31 (PTI) The much-anticipated battle between Bangladesh’s “battling begums” is over with Sheikh Hasina trouncing her arch-rival Khaleda Zia to lead her Awami League to a landslide victory for a record third consecutive term in a controversial general election, an outcome that would be a good news for India’s ties with Dhaka, especially on the national security front. Also Read - In First-of-its-kind Initiative, Madrasa For Transgender People Opens in Bangladesh
The Awami League-led grand alliance won 288 seats in the 300-member Parliament, Election Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said, after counting of votes in the elections that was marred by deadly violence. Also Read - International Flights: Vistara Announces Flights Between Delhi, Dhaka From Nov 5 | Check Ticket Fare, Schedule Here
The ruling alliance, which got nearly 82 per cent of the total votes polled, bettered its previous best performance of 2008 when it bagged 263 seats. Also Read - Monsoon Session Day 2: Lok Sabha Passes Essential Commodities Bill to Raise Farmer Income, Boost Agri Sector | Highlights
The opposition Jatiya Oikya Front – National Unity Front (NUF) – secured seven seats with over 15 per cent of the votes, Ahmed said, adding that others won three seats.
Voting was postponed in one constituency and result not declared in another due to the death of a candidate, he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Hasina over phone on her victory in the elections and assured her of India’s continued support to Bangladesh’s developmental strides.
India’s ties with Bangladesh under Hasina’s rule grew steadily. The last few years have been a “golden chapter” in India-Bangladesh relationship when complicated issues of land and coastal boundaries were resolved.
Bangladesh has also assured India that it will not allow its soil to be used for any terrorist activities against the neighbouring country. The two countries share a 4,096-km border.
Commenting on the results, 71-year-old Hasina said the Awami League-led Grand Alliance’s win in the election is another victory for the people of the country in December – the month of victory.
She was apparently referring to Bangladesh’s (then East Pakistan) victory over West Pakistan (now Pakistan) in the country’s independence war in December, 1971.
Hasina said the victory is nothing for her for personal gains, rather it is a great responsibility towards the country and its people.
While Hasina was seeking re-election for an overall fourth term as the prime minister, her 73-year-old arch-rival Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who is reportedly partially paralysed, faces an uncertain future in a Dhaka jail where she is lodged after her conviction in corruption cases.
Meanwhile, the opposition NUF rejected the results and urged the Election Commission to immediately scrap the “farcical election” and hold a fresh one under a non-partisan interim government.
“You (the EC) must cancel this election right away. We reject the so-called results and demand a new election under a neutral government,” NUF chief and veteran lawyer Kamal Hossain said.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who steered the party in the absence of Zia, described the polls as a “cruel farce”. He said the elections proved that free and fair polls were not possible under a partisan government.
The BNP’s decision to stay away from the general election five years ago was not wrong, he said.
The NUF is a coalition of opposition parties such as the BNP, Gono Forum, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Nagorik Oikya and Krishak Sramik Janata League.
Bangladesh’s Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda, however, ruled out any scope of holding fresh election as demanded by opposition alliance, saying the allegations of ballot stuffing on the night before election is “completely untrue.” “We are not going to hold a new election. There is no scope to hold the national election again,” Huda told the media.
The CEC expressed complete satisfaction over the election and said the voter turnout in the polls was 80 per cent.
Responding to the vote-rigging allegations, Awami League Joint General Secretary Abdur Rahman said foreign and domestic observers have expressed satisfaction over the election process and declared that it was held in a fair environment.
“I want to express my gratitude to everyone, including law enforcement and observers, who made the free-and-fair election possible,” he said.
With the overwhelming majority in the 11th general elections, Hasina is set to take office of the prime minister for the third consecutive time and fourth time overall.
Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is termed by many as the country’s iron lady. She won the historic fourth term as prime minister, becoming the country’s longest-serving leader.
The BNP, which has been out of power for 12 years and had boycotted the 10th general elections in 2014, is part of the opposition alliance.
Earlier, EC secretary Ahmed told reporters: “This is a huge event in the history of Bangladesh as the voting to the 11th parliamentary election took place in a very free, fair and peaceful environment under a political government.
“My congratulations to the Awami League”.
The EC said they have received over a hundred complaints from candidates throughout the country amid reports of violence.
At least 18 people, including a member of a security agency, have been killed and more than 200 others injured in poll-related violence, making it one of the deadliest polls in the country, the Daily Star reported.
Over 600,000 security personnel including several thousand soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed across the nation for the election in which 10.41 crore people were eligible to vote.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.