Renewed violence hits Bangladesh ahead of poll today

Reuters, DHAKA

Sun, Jan 05, 2014 - Page 6

Bangladesh was hit by renewed violence yesterday, with at least two more people killed on the eve of elections today, in which the ruling Awami League looks certain to prevail in a walkover as the main opposition party boycotts the poll.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called a 48-hour strike from yesterday morning, on top of a transportation blockade, and urged voters to stay away from the “farcical” election.

Without the BNP’s participation, only 146 of 300 parliamentary constituencies are being contested.

The BNP is protesting against Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s scrapping of the practice of having a caretaker government oversee elections and many of its leaders are in jail or in hiding. The impasse undermines the poll’s legitimacy and is fuelling worries of economic gridlock and further violence in the impoverished South Asian nation of 160 million.

The EU, a duty free market for nearly 60 percent of Bangladesh’s garment exports, has refused to send election observers, as have the US and the Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.

A ruling party leader was shot dead in southwestern Khulna overnight and a party youth activist was killed in clashes with rival BNP supporters in northwestern Lalmonirhat, police said, as renewed violence flared after several days of relative calm.

At least 10 people were injured when BNP activists hurled bombs at a railway station and set on fire a train compartment in the northern town of Natore, police said.