Dhaka: Voting began in poll-bound Bangladesh on Sunday, December 30 amid tight security. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeks a fourth term with this year’s general elections. At least 600,000 security personnel have been deployed across Bangladesh, including at 40,000 polling stations where voters have begun to cast their ballots.
The security forces include the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), navy, border and coast guards and auxiliary police units. Also, authorities have ordered the country’s mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday to prevent the spread of rumours that could trigger unrest in the politically-charged country.
“We have ensured the highest level of security in Bangladesh as per the capacity of the country,” Rafiqul Islam of the election commission.
A RAB spokesperson said that Bangladesh’s elite security force had arrested eight men for spreading rumours on social media ahead of Sunday’s poll. At least 48 people have been detained by the force in 2018 for spreading “false information for mocking” Hasina, the spokesman said.
The election commission has also imposed restrictions on public transport and cars on polling day in an effort to maintain security for a smooth election, said Rafiqul Islam.
Polls will close at 4:00 PM (10:00 GMT).
Around 104 million voters will cast their franchise and choose between an alliance led by Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and a coalition headed by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
At least 17 opposition candidates were arrested over what they claim are false charges.
“This is not (a) free and fair election. It is more a controlled selection,” said a Western diplomat who has been monitoring the run-up to the polls and who asked not to be named.
Daughter of Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina emerged victorious in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it wasn’t free or fair.