Fri, Dec 28, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Bangladesh campaigns ends in anger

‘BLIND DESPITE HAVING EYES’:The opposition BNP said it was prevented from holding a closing rally, accusing the police of supporting the ruling Awami League

AFP, DHAKA

Bangladesh’s deadly election campaign yesterday entered a final full day, with followers of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina parading in the streets while her opponents said the vote would not be free and fair.

Hasina accused the opposition of organizing bomb attacks, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said “the state” was aiding an assault on the opposition.

Flag-waving supporters of the ruling Awami League marched in Dhaka and other cities ahead of the official close of campaigning ahead of Sunday’s polls.

The BNP, whose leader is in jail, said it had been prevented from holding its closing rally.

At least six people — four from the BNP and two from the league — have been killed since campaigning started on Nov. 8.

The BNP and its Islamic ally Jamaat-e-Islami say that more than 11,500 of their followers have been arrested and thousand of advocates, including candidates, injured in attacks by ruling party followers.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for calm.

Guterres “calls on all stakeholders to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion before, during and after the elections, so as to enable a peaceful, credible and inclusive poll,” his spokesman said.

Bangladeshis “must feel safe and confident in exercising their right to vote. Civil society and electoral observers should be fully supported to play their role in the process,” the spokesman added.

The US called off an observer mission it was financing because of delays issuing visas.

Hasina, seeking a third straight term and a record fourth, has shrugged off opposition complaints of authoritarianism and said she needs more time to implement her ambitious economic plans.

Amid a flurry of late campaign appearances on Wednesday, Hasina said that the “BNP-Jamaat alliance carried out bomb attacks in 88 constituencies.”

Hasina focused a speech broadcast by video late on Wednesday to supporters in Dhaka on the impressive economic growth of the past decade.

She has promised to increase annual growth to 9 percent from 7.8 percent, expand electricity coverage and put the country on course to raise average incomes to more than US$5,400 by 2030.

Hasina slammed the opposition for failing to recognize Bangladesh’s achievements.

“They are blind despite having eyes,” she said. “I call upon people to continue the pace of improvement and give us more scope to serve again.”

Since her last victory, civil society and rights groups have accused Hasina’s government of silencing dissent and muzzling the press.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia was jailed for 17 years this year on graft charges.

“The election process has turned into a farce,” BNP spokesman Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters. “All the attacks are made on BNP people.”

The BNP-led opposition alliance has accused police of siding with the Awami League and said they were barred from holding a final rally yesterday.

Opposition parties sought permission to hold a rally in Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Udyan grounds, an alliance spokesman Latfiul Bari Hamim said.

“We made the application on Dec. 22, but two days later police said they could not give us permission,” Hamim said.

Dhaka police said they were not aware that permission had been sought.

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