Bangladesh faces violence as election campaign ends

Sylhet police chief Shah Harunur Rashid told AFP that two BNP supporters had been arrested for the latest killing. The BNP said the man died in a conflict among Awami League supporters.

Nineteen BNP activists were arrested when police and paramilitary guards raided the election camp of a BNP candidate and several villages in southern Bangladesh, police and BNP officials told AFP.

Thousands of Awami League supporters rallied in Dhaka early Friday as candidates made a last-minute pitch for votes.

The BNP, which says thousands of its activists have been locked up in a bid to rig the election, said it had been prevented from holding its final rally in the capital.

Hasina has shrugged off accusations of using authoritarian tactics, and in her final campaign statement urged Bangladesh’s 104 million voters to re-elect her to boost the impoverished South Asian nation’s economic development.

Bangladesh’s economy has grown at an impressive average of 6.3 percent every year since she won a landslide in December 2008.

The BNP accuses the prime minister of clamping down on democracy and freedom of speech — including over the jailing of its leader Khaleda Zia this year on graft charges.

Bangladesh main opposition leader and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia (C) looks on as she is escorted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka on October 6, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

It says that 9,222 workers and supporters have been arrested during the election campaign and that half of its candidates were attacked by ruling party supporters.

Its Islamic ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, says more than 3,600 of its activists were also detained.

The opposition has depended on social media to lobby for votes, saying that harassment has confined many candidates to their homes.

Bangladeshi authorities slowed internet services across the country on Friday with 3G and 4G services suspended for several hours in an effort to fight “propaganda”, an official said.

The BNP stepped up a desperate call for people to vote on Sunday. “On that day this country will be yours. You will take back its ownership,” BNP deputy chief Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

The campaign troubles have put Bangladesh in an international spotlight.

US ambassador Earl Miller said, “the United States is concerned by the high level of campaign violence over the last two weeks,” following a meeting with Bangladesh’s election chief late Thursday.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called for a vote “free of violence, intimidation and coercion,” according to a spokesman.

An opinion poll has showed Hasina is poised for a comfortable win.

(Source: AFP)

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